India to add ten million hectares of good quality forests in ten years

Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday announced that the government intends to create nearly 10 million hectares of forests in the next ten years under its ‘Green India’ program. India currently has 69 million hectares, or about a fifth of its total area, under forests and had a long term plan to increase it to 33% of the total area.

Jairam, however, said he saw no reason to follow the expansion policy as it is. “Around 40% of our existing forest area comes under degraded forests, which do not function as a forest should. It is, therefore, better to rejuvinate these rather than blindly bring more and more area under forest classification,” he said.

He said the proportion of India’s green house gas emissions sucked up by its forests is slated to fall drastically in the next ten years. “Today roughly about 9% of India’s annual green house emissions in sequestered by India’s forests. If we were to do nothing, by 2020, this absorption would fall to 4-4.5%. With this ‘Green India’ intervention, we are hoping to stabilize it at around 6-6.5%,” he said.

He said the 1925 Forest Conservation Act is going to be drastically revised to stem disaffection of the 25 crore people who depend on the forest for their livelihoods.

“Local bodies, local institutions self-help groups, communities.. with technical and managerial assistance of the forest departments. I know it’s an anathema to my colleagues in the forest department who believe they are the only protectors and guardians of forests, but we can no longer arrogate to ourselves all knowledge and all responsibility for protecting the forests,” he said at a function in the capital.