Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Afforestation – Fighting Climate Change

Afforestation – Fighting Climate Change 
Kalpana Palkhiwala

“Stockholm was without doubt the landmark event in the growth of international environmentalism”, wrote John McCormick in the book Reclaiming Paradise. “It was the first occasion on which the political, social and economic problems of the global environment were discussed at an intergovernmental forum with a view to actually taking corrective action.” 

The UN General Assembly established the World Environment Day (WED) in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment, observed on 5th June every year. World Environment Day is one of the principle vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), also established in 1972, uses WED to stimulate consciousness on the environment and mobilize public action. 

The agenda of the World Environment Day is to give a human face to environmental issues, empower people to become agents of sustainable and equitable development, promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes regarding the environment and advocate partnership across localities, regions and nations to ensure that all people enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

The theme for WED 2009 is ‘Your Planet Needs you- Unite to Combat Climate Change’. The theme reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the climate convention meeting in Copenhagen some 180 days later in the year, and marks conceptual links between overcoming poverty and improving management of forests. This year’s host of the World Environment Day is Mexico. 

Mexico, a country at the crossroads of the Green Economy and increasingly at the centre of regional and global affairs in the fight against climate change will host the International 2009 World Environment Day celebrations. The decision to choose Mexico as the host reflects the growing practical and political role of this Latin American country in the fight against climate change, including its growing participation in carbon markets. UNEP has now launched a new and more ambitious phase-the Seven Billion Tree Campaign. 

Holding front for afforestation and climate change

Planting, nurturing, preserving and conserving plants and trees is a deep rooted practice with historical significance in India. In some communities, a prayer is said and forgiveness is sought from the tree before cutting it. Sacred groves are common throughout India, where clusters of plants and trees are protected and worshipped for prosperity. Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism articulate respect for plants and trees, treating them as living beings. Buddhist monks, constantly on the move to preach, halt their travels during monsoon to ensure they do not destroy saplings and sprouted seeds. Jainism forbids the consumption of sprouts which are considered nascent life that should be allowed to grow. Festivals related to trees abound. One such festival is Van Mahotsav, initiated in 1950 by Shri K. M. Munshi, the then Union Minister for Agriculture and Food, a visionary who sought to enthuse people about conservation of forests and trees.

This week-long festival of tree planting is organised every year in July in a bid to retain the vanishing forest cover of the country. Cutting down trees on a massive scale has greatly affected the environment and it is imperative to do something about forests’ conservation. Planting of trees is a symbolic gesture to celebrate our reverence for all things that grow in the forest.


The National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB) in the Ministry of Environment and Forests is responsible for promoting afforestation, tree planting, ecological restoration and eco-development activities in the country, with special attention to degraded forest areas and lands adjoining forests, national parks, sanctuaries and other protected areas as well as the ecologically fragile Western Himalayas, Aravalis and Western Ghats.


The National Afforestation Programme (NAP) Scheme is the flagship scheme of NAEB, providing physical and institutional support to Forest Development Agencies (FDAs), which are a major step towards the institutionalization of Joint Forest Management. The FDA has been conceived and established as a federation of Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs) at the Forest Division level to undertake holistic development of forests with people's participation. The objectives of the scheme are:

• Protection and conservation of natural resources through the active involvement of communities

• Checking land degradation, deforestation and loss of biodiversity

• Ecological restoration, environmental conservation and eco-development

• Building the capacity of village level organization to manage natural resources in and around villages in a sustainable manner

• Fulfillment of the broader objectives of productivity, equity, and sustainability for the common good

• Improve quality of life and subsistence of people living in and around forests and

• Capability endowment and skill enhancement for improving the employability of the rural people

All 28 states, including the Autonomous Hill Districts (AHDC) are covered by this program, as are wildlife areas. Rehabilitation of abandoned, degraded shifting cultivation regions and regeneration of medicinal plants is also undertaken.


• 795 FDAs have been operationalised so far since the launch of the FDA mechanism in 2000-01, at a cost of Rs. 2,675.26 crores to treat a total area of 157.90 lakh ha. (as on 31.3.2009). Rehabilitation of shifting cultivation lands have been given specific focus under the programme, and 34 jhum projects have been sanctioned in NE States and in Orissa.

• As on 31.3.2009, Rs. 345.62 crore was released to FDAs during the year 2008-09 for implementation of National Afforestation Programme. (NAP)

• 97 million human days of work were generated, benefiting approximately 12 million households which included 22% Scheduled Castes and 38% Scheduled Tribes.

• Around 5.3 million households in project villages which had 25% Scheduled Caste and 21% Scheduled Tribe were covered and

• Entry-point activity beneficiaries are estimated to be around 1.92 million households out of which 23% were Scheduled Castes and 27% were Scheduled Tribes. 

Eco-Development Forces (EDF) Scheme 

The Eco Task Forces (ETFs) Scheme was initiated by the Ministry of Defence in 1982 with a view to securing involvement of ex-servicemen in afforestation and eco-development in remote areas to restore degraded ecosystems through afforestation, soil conservation and water resource management. The Scheme has been in operation for the past four plans.

There are currently six Eco-Task Force Battalions raised through ex-servicemen/Territorial Army Personnel. They cover the Shivalik Hills, Uttarakhand; Rajasthan Cannal, Bajju; Jammu and Kashmir; Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand; Sonitpur (West) and Haltugaon, Assam.

Proposed Gram Van Yojana Scheme 

Gram/Panchayat Van Yojana, a new scheme is proposed which will involve Panchayati Raj Institutions in afforestation/tree planting in non forest lands.

India released its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPPC) on 30th June 2008 to outline its strategy of climate change. The National Action Plan advocates a strategy that promotes the adaptation to climate change and enhancing the sustainability of India’s development path. Eight National Missions on Climate Change 

The National Solar Mission aims at increasing the share of solar energy in the total energy mix through development of new solar technologies, while attempting to expand the scope of other renewable and non fossil options such as nuclear energy, wind energy and biomass. The National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency comprises four new initiatives, namely, a market based mechanism for trading in certified energy savings in energy intensive large industries and facilities, accelerating the shift to energy efficient appliances in designated sectors, demand side management programmes in all sectors by capturing future energy savings, and developing fiscal instruments to promote energy efficiency. The National Mission on Sustainable Habitat attempts to promote energy efficiency in buildings, management of solid waste and modal shift to public transport including transport options based on bio-diesel and hydrogen. The National Water Mission has, as its objective, the conservation of water, minimizing wastage and ensuring more equitable distribution both across and within states.

The National Mission for sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem is aimed at evolving management measures for sustaining and safeguarding the Himalayan glacier and mountain eco system. The National Mission for a Green India focuses on enhancing eco system services and carbon sinks through afforestation on degraded forest land in line with the national policy of expanding forest and tree cover to 33% of the total land area of the country. The National Mission for Sustaining Agriculture will develop strategies to make Indian agriculture more resilient to climate change through new varieties of thermal productivity of rain fed agriculture. The National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change is intended to identify the challenges of and response to climate change through research and technology development and ensure funding of high quality and focused research into aspects of climate change. (PIB)

* Deputy Director, PIB, Delhi.

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