NCCF Welcomes Notification of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Rules, 2018

Forestry funds amounting to more than Rs 66,000 crore are now getting unlocked by notification of Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Rules on 10th August 2018 under CAF Act which was notified in 2016. NCCF had provided inputs to the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) during the public consultation phase of the said rules. Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF) welcomes the Notification of CAF Rules, 2018. Release of these funds to the respective states and Union Territories will help India regreen its forest areas, increase greenery in non-forest areas, and in achieving its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) goals committed to UNFCCC for combating climate change, particularly the goal of sequestering 2.5 to 3.0 billion tonnes of CO2 through additional forestry measures.

Further, it is heartening to note that the said rules, inter alia, under the sub-rule 5(3), recognize the importance of third-party monitoring, forest certification, and development of certification standards, and allows utilization of these funds for the same. This step will be crucial and go a long way to ensure that afforestation measures actually deliver the expected results. Forests across the world are increasingly getting certified under various global and national certification standards which is helping conservation and sustainable management of forests and wildlife while protecting the rights of communities. India also needs to accept these new global paradigms of forest management and embark on a path of developing and practicing forest management standards that are globally benchmarked and address national forestry challenges. Technology-based third-party monitoring and evaluation of compensatory plantations will ensure that funds released under CAF Rules, 2018 are utilized effectively.

NCCF strongly believes that the use of modern tools and techniques in strengthening forest management and effective concurrent and third-party monitoring will improve adherence to Working Plan prescriptions. Enhanced credibility about sustainable forest management practices will also result in consumer acceptance and evolving domestic and export markets of forest products.

Moreover, the lack of Quality Planting Material (QPM) is a major bottleneck in the country impeding the growth of agroforestry and afforestation measures. CAF Rules, 2018 duly recognizes the issue and allows to utilize CAF for the establishment, up-gradation, and maintenance of modern nurseries and other planting stock production facilities for the production of QPM; and production and distribution of QPM through certified nurseries at a subsidized price for promotion of trees outside forests (ToF). These measures will also help meet industrial demands of wood and reduce our dependence on wood imports. In fact, India currently imports wood worth more than Rs 40,000 crore annually.

The rules also emphasize research activities, capacity building, publicity, and awareness programs for the various schemes being implemented by the States and Union Territories Authorities. The involvement of Civil Society Organizations, academic and research organizations in all such activities will effectively complement and supplement the activities and achievements of the Central and State Governments.