200 urban forests to be developed in 5 years
Prakash Javadekar on Friday announced the implementation of the “Nagar Van” scheme to develop the urban forests. The environment ministry announced the scheme in 2016 but officials said it couldn’t be implemented on a large scale so far.
The Govt. of India has announced the implementation of a scheme to develop 200 urban forests across the country in the next five years, with Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar saying there was a need to increase forest cover in such areas.
Javadekar on Friday announced the implementation of the “Nagar Van” scheme to develop the urban forests. The environment ministry announced the scheme in 2016 but officials said it couldn’t be implemented on a large scale so far.
The urban forests will be on any forest land inside a city or any other vacant land offered by local urban bodies. A document on the scheme released by Javadekar said that the urban forests will be developed by involving local communities; corporates; local bodies; NGOs, etc. Once established, they will be maintained by the state government and an entry fee can be charged from visitors for maintenance, it said.
“These will be on public private partnership (PPP) mode where fencing will be done by the government but planting, public convenience infrastructure, walkways can be done by private companies as part of their corporate social responsibility,” said a senior official of the environment ministry (forestry division).
Sanjay Kumar, director general of forests, said: “It’s a collaborative approach rather than a PPP. We are expecting local people, municipal corporations and even industries both small and big to contribute. The Centre will fund a part of it. Industries can give funds to the forest department to support the project. Planting of local species will be prioritised. Forests in urban areas are most stressed. Such projects can also prevent their encroachment,” he said.
Legal researchers said there should be clarity on the policy and which areas will be earmarked for the development of urban forests. “Forests within cities are not empty spaces; they are used for multiple purposes by people. An example of this is the Aarey forest in Mumbai. What are vacant spaces? That needs to be clarified. Will it cover floodplains, district parks, wetlands for example? This runs the risk of enclosing open spaces where rights of admission may be reserved. We need more clarity,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher, Centre for Policy Research.