Key ministries disagree over CAMPA fund

Published - January 03, 2018 10:04 pm IST

New Delhi: Differences between the environment ministry and the finance ministry have become a roadblock to the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). This authority was envisaged as an independent body that would manage a corpus — collected from industries that have used forest land for projects — that accumulates around ₹6,000 crore annually and is already worth around Rs 42,000 crore. These funds are meant to be used by states to implement agro-forestry in non-forest land to compensate for felled forest. In spite of Parliament — after a fractious debate — signing CAMPA into law last year, it is yet to come into existence.

Minister of State for Environment Mahesh Sharma told Parliament last week that this was because the “rules” governing the management of the fund weren’t finalised and several meetings had been held among states to fix these rules.

Sources in the environment ministry say that while the rules have been framed, the finance ministry isn’t on board. “Power to disburse the funds should be with the CAMPA, however the finance ministry says it should be routed through the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI). That’s not ideal as it could allow states to use it for purposes other than afforestation,” a source said. The CFI is the repository of government revenues and taxes and all funds channelled through it require Parliamentary approval. Currently funds collected under CAMPA directly go into the Public Account and from thereon to the states.

By way of example, the education cess that the government collects never necessarily gets spent on education The Comptroller and Auditor General recently pulled up the government for not transferring ₹83,497 crore, collected as a ‘Secondary and Higher Education Cess’ in the Consolidated Fund of India during 2006-2007 to 2016-2017, to designated funds in the Public Account from where government routes money to schemes.

Currently, states are able to access CAMPA funds through an “ad hoc” mechanism whereby the Centre disburses it on a needs-basis. There are, however, too few personnel entrusted with managing this fund and often there isn’t enough due-diligence done to ensure that states are given money for purposes specific to regenerating forest. This year, for instance, the ad hoc body disbursed only ₹1,827 crore to states this year as opposed to ₹2,213 crore and ₹2,057 crore in the preceding years.

The Supreme Court, in a 2009 order, had directed that an independent authority be charged with disbursing these funds, which paved the way for the Compensatory and Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill envisaging the creation of a permanent Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority.

Last July, the Rajya Sabha signed into law the CAMPA Bill that allows the states to access nearly ₹42,000 crore — mostly collected from industrial projects as penalties — from CAMPA and channel it into afforestation projects.

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