Parliamentary panel rejects CAMPA Bill

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New Delhi, Oct 22 (UNI) The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment has recommended withdrawal of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2008, saying it was an ill-conceived exercise.

In its Report on the Bill presented in the Rajya Sabha today, the Committee said the purposes proposed to be achieved through the Bill should be achieved by making enabling provisions in the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

The Bill owes its genesis to an order of the Supreme Court passed in 2002, directing the Ministry of Environment and Forests to create a Compensatory Afforestation Fund in which all the money paid by user agencies as compensation for diverting forest land for their projects would be deposited.

Accordingly, the Ministry in 2004 set up a body known as Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority(CAMPA).

But due to non-operationalisation of CAMPA, even after two years, the apex court had on May, 2006 directed that an adhoc CAMPA be set up till a regular one comes into being, and that the money recovered on behalf of CAMPA but lying with states be centrally pooled into it.

So acting on the court's direction, Rs 5000 crore collected by the state governments and Union Territories have been placed under the adhoc body and deposited in nationalised banks.

The Standing Committee refused to accept the contention that the proportion of diversion of compensatory afforestation funds made by states was so huge and so alarming as to warrant sweeping changes in the mechanism which was in existence for over 20 years--1980 to 2002.

It felt that the establishment of the proposed new authority would prolong and delay the process of compensatory afforestation as the money collected by states will have to be pooled in a central fund and then devoted back to them as per whatever formulae worked out by the central authority.

It is therefore of the view that as the states generate the funds and also utilise the same, an instrument to facilitate utilisation needs to be placed at the state level.

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