Parliament passes bill for compulsory afforestation fund

New Delhi: Paving the way to unlock Rs 40,000 funds to establish corpus at the national and state levels to pay for afforestation activities, the Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the Compensatory Afforestation Bill, 2015. "We are giving money to those who have lost in the race of development," Anil Madhav Dave, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, told the upper house.  The bill seeks to create a Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and a Compensatory Afforestation Fund for both states and the Centre. Each state will get its share in the funds. "When I talk about jungle, it has two components: Tribals living in the forest and the animals. When we say Scheduled Tribes, forests and wildlife are attached. We are habituated to seeing it in compartments," Dave said. The funds will be primarily spent to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development.  Of the fund corpus, the Centre will get 10 per cent and the remaining will be distributed among the states.  This is one of the major amendments to the earlier version of the bill. In 2013, the share of the states was increased nine-fold to 90 per cent. The Comptroller and Auditor General though took a note of the lack of preparedness among the state forest authorities to utilise the funds. Odisha will receive the highest Rs 5,996 crore. The funds for 13 other states have been fixed, depending on their respective forest covers and other projects. The remaining states will receive Rs 1,000 crore each. Among other states, Andhra Pradesh will receive Rs 2,223 crore, Arunachal Pradesh Rs 1,462 crore, Chhattisgarh Rs 3,861 crore, Gujarat Rs 1,100 crore, Himachal Pradesh Rs 1,395 crore, Jammu and Kashmir Rs 926 crore, Jharkhand Rs 3,099 crore, Karnataka Rs 917 crore, Madhya Pradesh Rs 3,460 crore, Maharashtra Rs 2,435, Rajashtan Rs 1,425, Uttar Pradesh Rs 1,314 crore and Uttarakhand Rs 2,210 crore. Former Environment Minister and Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh earlier sought amendment to the clause that stressed on disbursement and utilisation of the funds by the states. However, he withdrew the amendment later.  "Normally, I would have moved this amendment but in view of the written assurance by the minister that the spirit of the amendment will be reflected in the rules and that if the rules are insufficient, he will come back in one year's time, I am withdrawing it," Ramesh said.  He said his amendment sought to ensure that the CAMPA funds are used wisely. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in May. Dave's predecessor and now Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar, while presenting the report card of the Environment Ministry in May, held the unlocking of the limited funds under the CAF Bill as one of his major achievements.