Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Green India Mission, part of India's plan to fight climate change, proposed to double the area being taken up for afforestation and eco-restoration over the next decade.

The first draft of the Mission, released on Monday, projects an ambitious target of 20 million hectares by 2020, at a cost of Rs. 44,000 crore. Public consultations will be undertaken across the country from June 11, following which the draft will be finalised.

Earlier, the Prime Minister had spoken of undertaking afforestation in 6 million hectares of degraded forest land as part of the Mission, which is one of the eight Missions of the National Action Plan on Climate Change. (About 10 million hectares would anyway be treated by the Forest department and others without the Mission's interventions).

The more ambitious target in this draft, however, emphasises a holistic approach to greening, making it clear that the project will not just be limited to trees and plantations, but would focus on restoring diverse ecosystems. It would not only strive to restore degraded forests, but also protect and enhance relatively dense forests.

The nine sub-missions include, separate targets for moderately dense forests, degraded forests, degraded scrub and grasslands, mangroves, wetlands, urban forest lands and institutional areas with tree cover, degraded and fallow agricultural land, wildlife corridors, more efficient stoves and alternative energy devices for better fuel wood use, and enhanced livelihoods for communities dependent on biomass and non-timber forest produce.

The Mission envisages a key role for local communities and includes a four-level monitoring framework.

The new and restored forest areas will act as a carbon sink. They are expected to absorb an additional 43 million tonnes of green house gases every year. This means that India's forests will be able to absorb 6.35 per cent of the country's annual emissions by 2020. The draft is rather vague on the source of funding, merely saying that the “resources will be mobilised as additionality from the Planning Commission.” It adds that “the deficit, if any, will be taken care of by developing projects for seeking assistance from international funding agencies, UN organisation, etc.”

Last month, Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh had indicated that the government was hunting for funds for the Mission, as “the money collected under the compensatory afforestation scheme would now be transferred to the States and so would not be available.”