Bhopal – The Central Government will grant Rs. 5000 crore over the next five years to States towards better forest conservation, Union Minister of Environment & Forests, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, said on Friday.
Speaking at the convocation of the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), Mr. Jairam Ramesh said that the 13th Finance Commission, for the first time, has made a provision for a forest conservation grant worth Rs. 5000 crore to States with rich forest cover.
At Rs. 727 crore, Arunachal Pradesh will receive the largest share from this grant. Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra will follow with Rs. 490, Rs. 411 and Rs. 310 crore respectively.
The formula for the allocation of the grant has been designed to take into consideration three factors. The share of the total forest area in the country falling in any particular State is the first, further enhanced for those States where forested area is greater than the national average.
Interestingly, according to the 13th Finance Commission document, the enhancement serves to add a further compensation for the economic disability posed by forest cover. The entitlement of each State, so obtained, has been further weighted by the third factor, which is the quality of the forest in each State, as measured by density. The weights are progressively higher for areas under moderately dense and dense forest cover.
Talking about forest conservation and tiger protection, Mr. Ramesh said that the Centre and the States have spent Rs. 8,200 crore in forest areas in the last financial year, i.e., 2008-09. On the question of trans-location of lions from Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat to the Kuno Palpur Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, he expressed inability of the Central Government to make a difference.
“I have asked Mr. Shivraj Singh Chauhan to convince Mr. Narendra Modi as they both belong to the same party, but that’s all that I can do,” Mr. Ramesh told The Hindu.
He also said that research was being conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to re-introduce the Cheetah in India, with Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat as potential States where the re-introduction might take place.
He dismissed reports of the Ministry of Surface Transport calling the Ministry of Environment & Forests as a blockade in the construction of national highways, saying the MoEF had a 98% approval rate for highway projects. He, however, also said that “whenever and wherever national highways will pass through sensitive areas like tiger habitats or dense forests, we will raise concerns”.
Taking a dig at forest officers, he said that forest officers kept telling him that the best way to save forests was to drive away the people and the cattle out.
“A senior IFS officer from Madhya Pradesh told me that the Forest Rights Act has spelled the doom for forests but I told him that this is India, we have to save forests with the people and the cattle,” he said delivering the convocation address.
Source: The Hindu.