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Promoting Forest Conservation through Public Funding

Governments around the world are grappling with the twin-edged challenge of a distressing pandemic and painful economic recession. As economic revival becomes the top priority, WHO has reminded everyone of an ‘intimate and delicate relationship between people and planet’ and emphasized on the need for a healthy and green recovery.

In India, the 10th most forested country in the world, forest lands cover around a quarter of the geographical area and play an important role in the ecology, economy, and social life of the country. Forests provide vital ecosystem services and share an intimate connection with biodiversity, water, and climate at different scales. By contributing towards enhancing the supply of clean water, reducing pollution, and improving public health, forests help governments save billions of rupees. Forests of India are also a net carbon sink that help absorb CO2 emissions from sectors such as energy and industry. An estimated 250-300 million women and men directly depend on forests for their sustenance. For about 100 millions of them, forests are the main source of livelihood and cash income.

In India, most forests are under state control and management and public funding plays a key role in their conservation, management, and restoration. In recent years, tax devolution by the National Finance Commission has emerged as a potential source of public funds for forests. The Fifteenth National Finance Commission (in their report for FY 2020-21) has given 10% weightage to ‘forest and ecology’ in their tax devolution formula not only because of the revenue disabilities and expenditure needs of states, but also for the huge ecological benefits to the nation and for meeting India’s international commitments. It has recognized forests as a key resource that ought to be preserved and expanded. The question is whether the inclusion of ‘forest and ecology’ criterion has created an incentive for the states to invest more in forest conservation. If states do not act now, the case for future allocations could become harder.

In this context UNEP, TNC and WRI India are organizing a webinar to discuss the following questions:

  • How do investments in forests and trees contribute to other key priorities of the states such as food security, public health, and employment?
  • How can a strong case be presented to the state decision makers for enhancing public investment in forests, especially for the critical field-level activities?
  • How can we leverage flagship rural development and livelihood schemes for enhancing the country’s natural capital in terms of forest and tree cover?
  • How can large-scale forest landscape restoration be supported and incentivized?
  • How can states leverage their green investments with public funds to attract additional resources from private sector or international sources?

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