Underlining that the CAF Bill was earlier passed by Lok Sabha in the year 2008, but the same could not be passed in Rajya Sabha , Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, “Now, after coming to power in 2014, our Government again took up the initiative and introduced CAF Bill in 2015 and after a lot of debate in Parliament, the Bill was passed in 2016 and the CAF Act was published on August 3, 2016”. He added that the Act could be implemented after framing of Rules after wider consultations with various stakeholders. Dr. Vardhan stated that the CAF Act will come into force from September 30, 2018. Dr. Harsh Vardhan emphasised that the release of fund to States will boost the efforts of the Government towards restoration and enhancement of forest wealth, enhance bio-richness, water availability and secure ecological security of the country, adding that this effort will help in creating the additional carbon sink to meet the nation’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by the year 2030.
The Minister also pointed out that the CAF Rules were finally published on August 10, 2018, paving the way for smooth transfer of funds worth about Rs. 52, 000 crore to the States.He also said that the fund will be kept in the interest-bearing Public account of the Centre and States, will be safe and will be used only for compensatory afforestation, soil moisture conservation, wildlife management and catchment area treatment.The Minister also said that these activities will be managed by statutory body called National Authority and State Authority and has a strong monitoring mechanism.
Dr. Vardhan stated that the CAF Act has been enacted to manage the funds collected for compensatory afforestation and net present value of forest land diverted for non-forestry use under Forest Conservation Act 1980, which had till now been managed by adhoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). “The release of the fund was restricted to only 10% of principal amount from interest accrued over it. Now, the Fund will be managed as per the CAF Act and Rules, unlocking the use of funds collected for the purpose of forest ecosystem restoration and water security”, Dr. Vardhan averred.He stressed that the Act provides that the Compensatory Afforestation will be compulsorily undertaken from the funds deposited for compensatory afforestation only on priority. The Minister said that this legislation will provide funds to the State Governments, which will get 90% of their share of funds – about Rs. 52, 000 crore to plan better and utilize the fund for compensatory afforestation, conservation of wild flora and fauna, wildlife habitat management and regeneration of degraded forest and restoration of ecosystem services.The Minister also pointed out that it has been provided that the expenditure can be done as per Annual Plan of Operation (APO), prepared in consultation with Gram Sabha to ensure that the rights of tribal population are protected.“With this objective in view, the afforestation of indigenous plant species has been proposed”, Dr. Vardhan added.