New Delhi: Aiming to increase India’s forest cover, address climate change concerns and achieve a faster growth rate in the rural economy, the government has decided to merge the Green India Mission (GIM) with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
Since taking over in May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been emphasizing the need to optimize efficient use of resources and encouraging various ministries to work in tandem.
The guidelines for the convergence of MGNREGS with GIM were jointly issued by the secretary of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) Ashok Lavasa and secretary of the ministry of rural development (MoRD) Jugal Kishore Mohapatra earlier this month.
A joint letter by Lavasa and Mohapatra, addressed to chief secretaries of all state governments, said the convergence aimed to synergize efforts made under MGNREGS for improving livelihoods through horticulture, plantation and farm forestry and collectively address climate change concerns.
“We trust that this integrated development approach with climate change adaptation and mitigation concerns will also benefit MGNREGS leading to better quality planning and selections of works capable of generating sustainable employment," the letter added.
Under the guidelines, the convergence of GIM with MGNREGS will also bring coordination in developing forests and their fringe areas as well as community or privately owned forests, while making vulnerable sections in rural India economically secure. The government believes it will also provide additional resources and benefits to the rural poor and generate sustainable employment.
GIM, one of eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, aims to increase forest cover by five million hectares and bring qualitative improvements in forest and tree cover of another five million hectares to forest or non-forest land in 10 years. It also aims to increase the forest-based livelihood income of about three million households. MGNREGS, on the other hand, aims to provide guaranteed employment to the rural poor.
Under the terms of the convergence, all land, including village common land, community land, revenue wasteland, shifting cultivation areas, wetland and private agricultural land will be eligible for afforestation. The guidelines also clarified that for intensive afforestation, works like pre-plantation (in March-June), plantation (July), protection (August-March) and maintenance works like weeding, watering and manuring would be undertaken.
The move also involves strengthening of decentralized forest governance through a revamped state forest development agency (SFDA) at the state level, forest development agencies at in the districts and joint forest management committees at the village levels.
The secretaries said the SFDAs will build a cadre of ‘green volunteers’, a task involving training youth from MGNREGS households in forest conservation, basic forestry operations and improved livelihoods through horticulture, sericulture, farm forestry and promotion of livestock. The convergence guidelines also clearly laid out that required plant material would be delivered to gram panchayats before July every year by drawing on MGNREGS funds and that in case of fund shortages, GIM funds can be used.
The progress of plantation under the convergence would also be monitored periodically using remote sensing technology, ground monitoring by local communities and photographic evidence.