Afforestation fund act to come into force next month: Minister

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New Delhi : The Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act will be enforced from September 30 after framing of rules and consultations with the stakeholders, Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Tuesday.

The bill on the matter was opposed by adivasi rights activists and environmentalists on the ground that it would lead to diversion of forest land in the name of development.

"After coming to power at the Centre in 2014, the NDA government took the initiative and introduced the CAF Bill in Parliament in 2015. After a lot of debate, the bill was passed in 2016 and the CAF Act came into being on August 3, 2016, the Minister said in a statement here.

The law establishes national and state compensatory afforestation funds under Public Account of India, to be spent on afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development.

The Minister said that expenditure under the law would be done as per the Annual Plan of Operation (APO), prepared in consultation with gram sabhas to ensure the rights of tribals are protected.

He said that the state governments will receive 90 per cent of their share in funds -- about Rs 52,000 crore -- for compensatory afforestation.

The Minister assured that the funds would be used only for compensatory afforestation under the watch of statutory bodies at the national and state levels.

In 2008, the bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha for the first time, but it lapsed in the Rajya Sabha.