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Cabinet okays Compensatory Afforestation Fund bill

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New Delhi, April 29:

In a move aimed at mitigating the impact of diversion of forest land for non-forest use, the union cabinet on Wednesday okayed the introduction of a bill to set up an institutional mechanism for the intended purpose.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi addressing at the inaugural ceremony of the Mananeeya Eknath Ranade Janm Shati Parva, in New Delhi on November 09, 2014.The cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved introduction during the current session of parliament a bill called “The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015”, said an official communique.

The institutional mechanism, both at the Centre and in each state and union territory, would ensure expeditious utilisation in efficient and transparent manner of amounts realised in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose.

The proposed legislation also seeks to provide safety, security and transparency in utilisation of these amounts, which are currently available in nationalised banks and are being managed by an ad-hoc body.

Unspent amounts available with the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) would also be monitored for their optimum utilization.

The statement said the CAMPA funds presently total Rs.38,000 crore, and fresh accrual of compensatory levies and interest on accumulated unspent balance will be of the order of approximately Rs.6,000 crore per annum.

The utilization of these amounts would facilitate timely execution of appropriate measures to mitigate the impact of diversion of forest land, for which these amounts have been realised, the government said.

The proposed legislation also intends to create “productive” assets and generate “huge” employment opportunities in rural areas, especially in backward tribal areas.

Among other provisions, the bill would also provide for the national Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) and the state CAFs to credit amounts collected by state governments and union territories to compensate loss of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose.

A body would be constituted to manage and utilise amounts credited to the national as well as state CAF while a monitoring group would be instituted to assist the National Authority take stock of amounts released from the national as well as the state CAFs. (IANS)