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Creation of Accredited Compensatory Afforestation in Government-Owned Non-Forest Lands – Analysis and Discussion

By - King Stubb & Kasiva on December 9, 2023

The recent notification from the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), dated November 2023, addresses the creation of Accredited Compensatory Afforestation (ACA) in government-owned non-forest lands. This communication, directed to the Addl. Chief Secretary (Forests)/Principal Secretary (Forests) of all state governments/Union Territory Administrations, sheds light on key developments and considerations in the realm of afforestation and land usage policies.

Key Points and Analysis:

Guidelines Revision: The letter emphasizes the revision of guidelines on Accredited Compensatory Afforestation. It specifically mentions the detailed deliberations that took place between MoEF&CC, the Ministry of Coal, and various State Governments during the formulation of these guidelines. Notably, provisions allowing the notification of government-owned non-forest lands as Reserve Forest/Protected Forest without the need for transfer and mutation have been incorporated. This indicates a strategic move to streamline processes and encourage the use of non-forest lands for afforestation purposes.

Inter-Ministerial Coordination: The document references a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Monitoring and Coordination Committee held on October 30, 2023. The committee's discussion on the use of ACA land as a Compensatory Afforestation (CA) in lieu of the diversion of forestland underscores the need for a cohesive approach to addressing environmental concerns. The coordination between different ministries signifies a holistic perspective on the matter.

Offline Mode Implementation: Recognizing the need for expeditious action, the letter encourages State Governments and Union Territory Administrations to proceed with the creation of ACA lands in offline mode. This step is intended to facilitate the process until the online module on ACA on PARIVESH is fully operational. It reflects the adaptability of the system to circumvent operational challenges and ensures the continuity of afforestation efforts.

Enabling Provisions: The communication emphasizes the enabling provisions outlined in para 6(ii) and 8(iv) of the guidelines dated January 24, 2023. These provisions streamline the acceptance of government-owned lands for ACA without insisting on the traditional transfer and mutation processes. This could potentially expedite the implementation of afforestation projects, demonstrating a pragmatic approach to the utilization of available resources.

Progress Monitoring: The letter touches upon the progress made in the creation of Accredited Compensatory Afforestation lands. The meeting between the Secretary, MoEF&CC, and Secretary, Ministry of Coal, on October 12, 2023, highlights the importance placed on tracking advancements. The call for completing the process and recording it offline until the online module is operational underscores the commitment to maintaining momentum in afforestation initiatives.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the notification reflects a proactive stance by the MoEF&CC in addressing the challenges related to forest conservation and compensatory afforestation. The integration of offline measures, emphasis on inter-ministerial coordination, and the inclusion of enabling provisions showcase a commitment to flexibility and efficiency in the pursuit of environmental goals. These developments open avenues for discussions in the community regarding the balance between conservation efforts and administrative pragmatism, as well as the broader implications for sustainable development.


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