Shimla: In India`s first public afforestation scheme, a World Bank-funded project in Himachal Pradesh will not only re-green the hills but also earn carbon credits for the state.
Additional Chief Secretary (Forests) Sudipto Roy said the project is aimed at protecting watersheds, improving livelihoods and generating carbon revenue for the communities through afforestation.
"The project helps sequester greenhouse gases by expanding forest cover on degraded lands and creating carbon sinks under the clean development mechanism," Roy said.
Carbon credits provide a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving them a monetary value. A credit gives the owner the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide. Credits can be exchanged between businesses or bought and sold in the international market at current market prices.
The World Bank inked the emission reduction purchase agreement with the state last month to be implemented through the Rs.337-crore Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development project.
Under it, the World Bank will buy carbon credits of 350,000 temporary certified emission reductions (tCERs) for plantations raised over 4,003 hectares in the first phase till 2017.
The farmers in 177 gram panchayats of 10 districts will receive Rs.2,000-2,500 per hectare annually. If the growth of biomass is good, the state can avail itself of the benefit of another 100,000 tCERs in the second phase (2017-26) for which another agreement will be signed, an official said.
The World Bank committed to buying nearly 350,000 tCERs. "This became possible after Spain committed to purchasing tCERs from the World Bank," he said.
The project aims to sequester 828,016 tonnes of carbon by the year 2026.
However, the process of physical verification of the plantations raised so far on 3,000 hectares has not started yet.
"An independent team of evaluators will soon tour the state to study the exact growth of the biomass," said project director R.K. Kapoor.
Project officials said the exact rate of purchase of carbon credits would be determined on the growth of biomass. The normal range is $4.5-5 per tCER.
The state has also applied for registration of the project to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
With the granting of approval by the UNFCCC, the state hopes to get an additional annual revenue of Rs.8-10 crore through carbon credits.
World Bank Deputy Country Director Hubert Nove Josserand told IANS on the day of signing of purchase agreement in Shimla that the bank entered into an agreement for similar projects in 17 countries and the hill state had the largest area to be covered under the project.
Under it, 40 selected native species, including fruit and medicinal ones, have been planted.
As per the state forest report of 2005 published by the Forest Survey of India, Himachal Pradesh has 14,752 sq km forest area out of which 1,097 square km is very dense forest.