The Union Ministry of Forests and Environment will soon introduce a new programme to improve the condition of degraded forest land, said Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh here on Wednesday.

Speaking to this reporter at the Chennai airport, he said his Ministry was taking various measures to improve the degraded forests in various States.

National average

“At present, the national average of forest cover is about 23 per cent. Forty per cent of this forest land is degraded. More than increasing the forest cover in each State, steps have to be taken to improve the quality of forests. In the last 10 years, the Ministry had taken up greening efforts in three million hectares of area,” he said.

India’s 70 million ha of forest cover currently absorbs 10 per cent of its greenhouse emissions.

So improving forest quality will help in the fight against climate change, he said at a meeting later at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.

Detailing the new programme planned by the Union Ministry, State Forest Department officials said christened Accelerated Restoration and Rejuvenation of Forests, it would be on the lines of Tamil Nadu Afforestation Programme (TAP).

But, unlike the TAP, the new programme would not have any allocation for buffer zone activity.

The focus would be more on planting and soil moisture conservation work. The Union Ministry had already decided on the quantity of funds to be given to each State to implement the programme, the officials said.

Earlier, the Union Ministry was funding greening efforts through Mission Green India and the project was implemented by non-governmental organisations in each State.