States get Rs.5 bn for forestry


New Delhi : A Rs.500 crore (Rs.5 billion) programme to restore and regenerate India’s forest cover has been included in the budget unveiled by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said here Thursday. Buried in the expenditure budget, the “major new scheme” did not receive the attention it deserved, he said.

Support TwoCircles

State governments will get money directly from the Planning Commission under the scheme, called Accelerated Programme of Restoration and Regeneration of Forest Cover. “This is the first time the centre has announced such a scheme,” Ramesh said.

The states have to propose projects under the scheme, and they will be finalised by the time environment ministers of all state governments meet here Aug 18.

“I was told by Planning Commission vice chairman (Montek Singh Ahluwalia) the prime minister was very keen that the (economic) stimulus package should have a green colour,” Ramesh told the media, explaining the genesis of the scheme.

Apart from that, through this budget afforestation programmes of the central ministry are being dovetailed into programmes under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Ramesh said. Eighteen districts have been selected for pilot projects.

Three states, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat, have already earmarked substantial sums for forestry programmes under NREGA, the minister added.

The allocation for the ministry has been raised around 25 percent from Rs.1,707 crore to Rs.2,129 crore this year, which Ramesh described as “probably the single largest increase since the ministry was formed 25 years ago”.

With this rise, more money for the states’ afforestation programme, for river conservation and to save the tiger, and special grants to research institutions, the extra money given to green causes this year totalled Rs.1,052 crore. “It demonstrates the government’s seriousness in this area,” Ramesh said.

He however admitted that his ministry may have missed the bus to some extent on funding schemes to combat climate change, because the eight missions under the National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) have not been formulated yet.

“We have the documents, but as yet they are not really mission documents,” Ramesh said. “We have to make them Pitroda-type mission documents.” He was referring to the national missions formulated by Sam Pitroda in the 1980s.