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What are the updated Green Credit Programme rules?

Green Credit Programme
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Who is responsible for aForestation? What will states have to do?
Can firms trade ‘green credits’?

On April 12, the Environment Ministry announced further instructions for its Green Credit Programme (GCP), two months after establishing criteria for the initial project, afforestation. An official stated that changing the criteria would favour ecosystem restoration over tree planting.

What exactly is the Green Credit Programme?

This campaign was officially launched in October 2023 and is based on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mission Life philosophy. The purpose is to promote sustainability, decrease waste, and improve the natural environment. According to an Environment Ministry publication, the GCP programme is a market-based framework that incentivizes “voluntary actions” for environmental conservation. Investing in fields such as afforestation, water conservation, air pollution reduction, waste management, and mangrove conservation can earn people, organisations, and enterprises ‘green credits.’ The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), an independent ministry entity, is in charge of running the initiative. They will design methods for figuring out “green credits” that come from following the guidelines. Additionally, they will oversee a trading mechanism where these credits may be exchanged.
The Ministry established the guidelines for the first of these programmes, an orestation, in February.
In general, businesses, organisations, and private citizens could offer to finance reforestation efforts in particular areas of degraded forest and wasteland. It stated that the State forest departments will be in charge of actually planting the trees.
After two years of planting and an assessment by the ICFRE, each of these planted trees might be eligible for one “green credit.”

As per sources, 13 State forest departments have so far offered 387 land parcels totaling approximately 10,983 hectares of degraded forest land. An estimate of the costs associated with an attestation will be provided to those who successfully meet the requirements. According to a Ministry official, a number of public sector businesses have reportedly registered to participate in the scheme, including Indian Oil, Power Grid Corporation of India, the National Thermal Power Corporation, Oil India, Coal India, and National Hydropower Corporation.

Why has controversy been stoked by the GCP?

Although the GCP hasn’t started operating, a number of its features have drawn criticism. The first is that it turns environmental preservation into a commodity. According to India’s forest conservation rules, any enterprise that is permitted to clear forests and utilise the land for non-forest uses must give the forest authorities an equivalent quantity of non-forest land and pay them to restore the forest.
Companies can “exchange” their credits for “complying with compensatory aorestation,” according to the GCP plan for aorestation.
Critics claim that this might be a means of easing the criteria for forest diversion for mining and infrastructure firms.

Second, ecosystems do not always improve when trees are planted.
There are over 200 different kinds of forests in India. A healthy ecology may not be possible if the incorrect kind of trees are planted; certain areas are grasslands, while others are dominated by shrubs. Studies have revealed this.
Additionally, the promotion of alien monocultures and the destruction of natural forests pose a hazard.
Lastly, according to the GCP, carbon trading may make use of green credits that arise from the storage of carbon (from trees). The math equating these tasks is unclear, which makes this another contentious issue.

In what way has the government answered?

The Ministry has released the rules that States must use to determine the cost of restoring a damaged forest environment in its most recent version. An earlier requirement that a reforested landscape must include at least 1,100 trees per hectare has been modified by the Ministry, and States are now free to determine what counts as a minimum.
Not every damaged forest is able to sustain that level of density. Therefore, in certain locations, grasses, herbs, and shrubs may be appropriate for reviving the ecosystem.

ABHISHEK VERMA


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