The Failures of "The Green India Mission" - Seeker's Thoughts

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The Failures of "The Green India Mission"

The Importance of Forest

Forests and climate change are intimately intertwined. Forests have regulated the climate, rain, groundwater, soil of the earth. 

Their transpiration act as a regulator of the balance of oxygen and carbon-dioxide.
The world’s forest and forest soil currently store more than one trillion tonnes of carbon-twice the amount found floating free in the atmosphere.

Deforestations and Greenhouse Gases

While deforestation is responsible for about 20% of greenhouse gas, overall forests currently absorb more carbon than they emit.

 The problem, according to scientists, is that this critical carbon-regulating service could be lost entirely if the earth heats up 2.5 degree Celsius or more relative to pre-industrial levels, which is expected to occur if emissions are not substantially reduced.

 Further, higher temperatures, along with the prolonged droughts, more intense pest invasions, and other environmental stresses that could accompany climate change, would lead to considerable forest destruction and degradation.

India is one of the 12 mega diversity countries having a vast variety of flora and fauna. It commands 7% of world’s biodiversity and support 16 major forest types, varying from alpine pastures in the Himalaya to temperate, sub-tropical and tropical forests, mangroves of the coastal regions. The country’s forest cover is 67.71 million ha, (21.81%).

Over the past 150 years, deforestation has contributed an estimated 30% of the atmospheric build-up of CO2. It is also a significant driving force behind the loss of genes, species, and ecosystem.

The problem of degraded soil in India’s forest lands which increases the probability of forest fires and leads to depletion groundwater resources. Poor soil quality also impacts of the soil to retain moisture and replenish groundwater reservoirs. During the monsoons the water washes away the soil.

India Initiative to curb deforestation and climate change

India initiated several programmes to fight against deforestation and climate. Green India mission is one among the biggest national action plans to address the challenge of climate change.

 It was launched in February 2014 for protecting; restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaption and mitigation measures.

The mission recognises the influence forests on environmental amelioration through climate change mitigation, water security, food security, biodiversity conservation and livelihood security of forests living as well dependent communities.

The objective of the mission is to increase green cover to the extent of 5 million hectares and improve quality of existing green cover o another 5 million hectares, improve eco-system survives like carbon sequestration, hydrological services and biodiversity and provisioning services like fuel, fodder, and timber and non-timber forest produces. It also has to increase forest-based livelihood income for about 3 million households.

Serious Concern on Green India Mission Report

According to parliamentary committee report, Green India Mission, which aimed to protect climate change and restore forest, is grossly underfunded.
The report stated, that the scheme proposed for 10 years with an outlay, of  Rs 50,000 crore.

During 2017-18, Rs 47.8 crore has been allocated for the scheme which is grossly insufficient as the committed liability for 2015-16 and 2016-17 is Rs 89.53 crore which is much more than the budget allocated.

The report also raises concern about the targets set by the green India mission on India’s intended nationally determined contribution submitted to the United Nation’s framework convention on climate change.

According to the Nationally Determined Contribution, India has a target to sequester 2.523 billion tonnes of carbon by 2020-30. Our current forest cover is 75 million hectare and to meet our target of carbon sequestration, 30 million hectares of additional land would be required for forests.

The mission document does not mention from where this land will be arranged.

The report also found that in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the Green India Mission missed it targets by 34% instead of the targeted 67, 956 hectares, only 44,749 hectares of land got green cover.

The committee also points out that the afforestation done under the mission was only aimed at increasing tree count without considering the soil and weather conditions. Trees like eucalyptus were planted which make environmental problems worse rather than solving it. Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought, and prevent biodiversity in regions.

How can India meet its Green India Mission Target?

First, leveraging technological strength will be a key. India is a powerhouse for development of satellite-based monitoring systems and geospatial technologies.

 These should be fully deployed to help the India Forest Service monitor forest cover realistically, along with thorough assessment of land and resource rights to identify areas for restoration.

The green Accounting of Indian states project provides a framework for comprehensive.

In India’s case, the needs are clear: redoubled efforts in forest restoration and management—in addition to energy efficiencies, renewable energy systems, and climate-smart agriculture – that counterbalance rapidly increasing emissions from fossil fuel-based power generation.

Monitoring of green assets. Such monitoring, combined with India long term ecological observatories and systematic progress toward Green India Mission targets, is required to realistically assess spatial/temporal trends in green assets.

Second, Meeting the Green India Mission carbon uptake goals will require revolutionizing India’s forestation policies and techniques, and forest management in general. There are currently no rigorous guidelines regarding habitat restoration or land reclamation projects.

Third, on the social front, the country has a record of progressive land rights legislation and decentralized governance systems for managing common-property resources, such as forests, but implementation has lagged behind, government should work on local village bodies to participate in funding and decision-making, rather than privileging the private sector in establishing plantations.

The need to respond to climate change is challenging as a large nation, India needs to develop new and adequate administrative structures. India, of course, is not alone, as the United States, China and others will have their own challenges to curb carbon and restoring forests.

India formally ratifies the Paris Agreement, which integrated ethics, economics, and resource conservation. All of these factors will come into play. Given India’s strengths in science and technology, public policy, and civil society, the country has the potential for forge a greener development path over the next decades.

And importantly, genuine progress toward realizing India’s Green India Mission aims would not only help with global emissions targets, but also provide a model for other countries facing similar climate challenges.

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