In the past century India has suffered rampant deforestation, which has destroyed wildlife habitats, rendered land less fertile, and reduced a major carbon sink – but the government has a plan to turn things around. India’s Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar just announced plans to spend $6.2 billion to create new forests. He said, “Our forest cover will dramatically increase and it will result in achieving our target 33 percent of tree cover and most importantly 2.5 billion tonne of carbon sink.”
As opposed to reforestation, where trees are cultivated on lands that were recently forests, India’s plan calls for afforestation – cultivating land that hasn’t had trees for a long period of time. The Indian government said they aim to spend $6.2 billion on afforestation through a Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill. Their goal? Increase forest cover on total land from 21.34 percent up to 33 percent.
Will it work? Both scientists and government workers have expressed concern over India’s ability in the past to conserve forests. Earth scientist Sreedhar Ramamurthi said, “There is no clarity on how the government will develop these new forests. Are you going to throw people away from their land to develop new forests? If so, why did you allow forests to be depleted in the first case?”
The money will come from fees paid by companies to utilize forested land since 2006. According to research from the Centre for Science and Environment, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has allowed 1.29 million hectares of forest to be used since 1980 “for non-forestry purposes.” The Indian parliament’s lower house, the House of the People, has already passed the measure. The bill’s approval is now up to the upper house, the Council of States.