Green India Mission to improve quality, quantity of forests

Thiruvanthapuram: The Centre has worked out an ambitious project as part of the national action plan on climate change to improve quality and quantity of forest cover in the country, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said today.

"The mission will be accorded approval at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi on February 22," the Minister for Environment and Forest said.

The objective of the `Green India Mission` project was to increase forest cover in five million hectares and protect forest areas in the country, he said, after inaugurating the fourth Southern Forest Ministers Conference here.

He said grama sabhas, women self-help groups and forest management committees with technical assistance of state forest departments will execute the project.

He stressed on the importance of forest conservation, saying 40 per cent of 69 million hectares of forest in India are open degenerated forest.

Ramesh also emphasised on a strategy to protect Western and Eastern Ghats as they face a great threat due to pressure from developmental activity.

There was also pressure from states for sanctioning open mining, setting up hydel projects and putting up broad gauge railway lines, he pointed out.

He justified the Environment Ministry`s recent decision to accord permission for POSCO steel plant in Orissa, saying the permit was conditional and there was also an assurance that the Forest Right Act (FRA) would not be violated.

On complaints of some states that the FRA has increased human-wildlife conflicts, he said, "Forest officials are living in a fool`s paradise if they think they can protect forests by keeping the local community away from forests."

They should change their attitude towards preserving forests and see it as a chance to ensure local people`s participation in forest protection, he said.