Recently, the central government announced the release of funds around ₹47000 crores to 27 states for compensatory afforestation and other green activities, including prevention of forest fire, biodiversity management and soil conservation. This was indeed an applauding step by GOI.
Among the 27 states which have received the funds, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have the maximum share.
How the government authorities will spend these funds is well known to everyone. These state authorities will surely plant trees, but they will never ensure the trees are taken care of. Such improper management is the result of a failure in spending money by the previous governments. In 2017, M.P. alone had planted six crore saplings in a day to fulfil the Paris Agreement promise, and U.P., too, has several records in this regard.
But most importantly, who will verify the number of saplings planted, and how many survived in the future? There is no mechanism in place to deal with this.
However, the Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the government has a mechanism to track whether these funds are being utilized properly. He further added that “States should spend more in forest conservation as it is a future investment. We will keep a tab on these funds, and we have the mechanism to track them”. “With new technology, we will track the expenses. There will be proper monitoring, and we will ask for a report from the states as well,” he said.
But this kind of assurance is not new in Indian politics.
There is an Indian startup named “Afforest” founded by Shubendu Sharma. It has the expertise in growing natural, wild, maintenance-free, native forests with the lowest possible cost. The company follows certain rules in the forests they create; the basic rule being to plant only native trees. In this way, they have completed 23 different forest projects, in a total area of about 1 lakh sq ft.
Firstly, they survey the soil and identify the native species of that region and plant them accordingly. Later, the soil is prepared by adding natural nutrients according to the requirements, and only then, the saplings are planted.
Another startup named “Grow-Trees“, allows companies and individuals worldwide to plant trees online and dedicate the trees to greet someone by means of an e-certificate with a personalized message. These trees belong to the communities who live nearby, and therefore, they have an incentive to look after the trees. The plantings are audited by audit firms independently.
The government needs to support these innovative ideas and startups and encourage them.
Why don’t the government give a share of the fund to these startups that have expertise in this field and have proven it with their results? Apart from generating employment, it will encourage more people in India to go for such businesses of making our motherland greener.
The state government can still give projects to such companies by using the funds from the GOI—instead of organizing plantation drives. Plants after such drives are left uncared, due to which most of them die. This needs to be changed, and responsibility should be given to firms that can take care of them and have expertise in this field.
I hope the government chooses wisely in giving such important projects—which will have a positive impact on the global environment.