''Green India Mission to improve quality, quantity of forests''

Thiruvanthapuram, Feb 6 (PTI) The Centre has worked outan ambitious project as part of the national action plan onclimate change to improve quality and quantity of forest coverin the country, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said today.

"The mission will be accorded approval at a meetingchaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi on February22," the Minister for Environment and Forest said.

The objective of the ''Green India Mission'' project was toincrease forest cover in five million hectares and protectforest areas in the country, he said, after inaugurating thefourth Southern Forest Ministers Conference here.

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

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

Ramesh also emphasised on a strategy to protect Westernand Eastern Ghats as they face a great threat due to pressurefrom developmental activity.

There was also pressure from states for sanctioning openmining, setting up hydel projects and putting up broad gaugerailway lines, he pointed out.

He justified the Environment Ministry''s recent decisionto accord permission for POSCO steel plant in Orissa, sayingthe permit was conditional and there was also an assurancethat the Forest Right Act (FRA) would not be violated.

On complaints of some states that the FRA has increasedhuman-wildlife conflicts, he said, "Forest officials areliving in a fool''s paradise if they think they can protectforests by keeping the local community away from forests."

They should change their attitude towards preservingforests and see it as a chance to ensure local people''sparticipation in forest protection, he said.

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