Centre notifies draft rules for Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act

It said the draft rules will come into effect after 30 days. It has also invited comments and suggestions from various stakeholders.

PTI
New Delhi, Publish Date: Feb 19 2018 12:12AM | Updated Date: Feb 19 2018 12:12AM
Centre notifies draft rules for Compensatory Afforestation Fund ActFile Photo

One and half years after the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016, was passed, the Centre has notified its draft rules specifying on how states could utilise around Rs 50,000 cr under it for growth and regeneration of forests. 

In the notification, the Centre also specified the allowed and disallowed activities. The environment ministry in its notification, dated February 16, has come out with draft rules for the Act which seeks to ensure expeditious utilisation of funds in an efficient and transparent manner of amounts realised in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose.

"The following draft of certain rules which the central government proposes to make in exercise of powers conferred by section 30 of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016, (38 of 2016) is hereby published, as required under sub-section (1) of section 30 of the said Act for the information of the public likely to be effected thereby," the notification said. 

It said the draft rules will come into effect after 30 days. It has also invited comments and suggestions from various stakeholders.

The rules have prohibited the use of certain activities, including  payment of salary and travelling allowances, to regular state forest department employees undertaking foreign visits, expansion and up-gradation of zoo and wildlife safari among others. 

The notification came days after Congress leader Jairam Ramesh questioned the Centre's delay in making draft rules for the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016, saying it posed a "serious threat" to the rights and livelihoods of tribals and forest dwellers.

"Provided further that the said activities over forest land under control of state forest department and being managed as per the working plan with participation of local people shall be taken up in consultation with the gram sabha, van sanrakshansamiti or village forest committee as the case may be." 

"It shall be in consonance with the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (2 of 2007), and the guidelines issued thereunder, wherever applicable," it said. 

Most of the funds, amounting to about Rs 50,000 cr, are with the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). 

As per the draft rules, 80 per cent of the accumulated funds can be used by a state in a financial year for 12 activities for forest and wildlife management, which includes, assisted natural regeneration, artificial regeneration (by plantations), protection of plantations and forests, pest and disease control in forest and forest fire prevention and control operations.

These also include soil and moisture conservation in the forest, improvement of wildlife habitat, relocation of villages from protected areas, planting and rejuvenation of forest cover on non-forest land falling in wildlife corridors, operation and maintenance of animal rescue centre and veterinary treatment facilities for wild animals among others.

The remaining 20 per cent of the net present value (NPV) will be utilised for strengthening of forest and wildlife related infrastructure, capacity building of personnel of state forest departments and other associated agencies and organisations, the draft rules said.

The rules have prohibited certain activities which shall not use the funds. These include payment of salary and travelling allowances to regular state forest department employees, undertaking foreign visits, payment for legal services for defending cases filed in tribunals or courts not related to the management of the state authority, purchase of vehicles for officers, heavy vehicles and machines for state forest departments, construction of residential and official buildings for officers above forest range officers.

The list of activities not permissible also include leasing, hiring and purchase of land for afforestation purposes, purchase of furniture and appliances, establishment, expansion and up-gradation of zoo and wildlife safari among others. It also said 60 per cent of the interest accrued on the amount available in the state fund shall be spent in a financial year for six activities for conservation and development of forest and wildlife while the 40 per cent will be spent for the non-recurring and recurring expenditure of the state authority, with the approval of the steering committee of the said authority.

The notification said the national fund will be managed according to the provisions of Government Accounting Rule, 1990, and the General Financial Rules, 2017. It said the state fund will be managed according to provisions of the state financial rules or any such rules applicable in the state and in accordance with the accounting procedure notified by the state or union territory government and as per the guidelines issued by the the national authority.

Questioning the delay by the government, Ramesh had recently shot off two separate letters to Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan and RajyaSabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu. He said the rules were yet to be made public despite former environment minister Anil MadhavDaves assurance to the RajyaSabha in July 2016. Forest rights activists maintained that the draft rules ignored demands to incorporate provisions in compliance with Forest Rights Act (FRA), provision for consent of gram sabhas and transfer of CAMPA funds to gram sabhas.

"The draft rules ignore demands made by tribal organisations and groups to incorporate clear provisions in compliance with FRA, provision for consent of gram sabhas and transfer of CAMPA funds to gram sabhas as per FRA and  PESA. "On the contrary, the rules undermine, violate FRA and legal authority of gram sabhas. The rules create scope for illegal plantations by forest departments and the joint forest management committees," Tushar Das, associated with National CFR Learning and Advocacy Group told PTI. 

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