GUWAHATI, Nov 4 - As the French Development Agency (AFD) and Assam government signed a 50 million euro project agreement to restore the State’s forest ecosystems and preserve their biodiversity, Ambassador of France Emmanuel Lenain today said India and France were determined to address the challenges of climate change and biodiversity and the pact was one of the achievements towards it.
“This project reinforces the commitment of India and France towards the restoration and preservation of rich and diverse natural ecosystems. Biodiversity conservation will remain a priority for our 2020 bilateral agenda, and we look forward to lessons from this collaboration, which has already yielded tangible results,” the French envoy said.
The loan of 50 million euro (Rs 400 crore) would be utilised for implementing the second phase of the Assam Project for Forest and Biodiversity Conservation (APFBC) launched in response to the threats posed by deforestation, poaching and overdependence of local communities on forest resources. The total budget of the second phase is Rs 500 crore (the State government will contribute Rs 100 crore).
Under the first phase of the project which began in 2013, reforestation was done in 21,000 hectares of land, 33 flood refuge sites (highlands) built in Kaziranga and over 6,000 members of local communities trained in alternative livelihood. The project also has built up the capacities of the forest department, particularly its frontline staff to reinforce its key missions.
Head of Forest Force and PCCF AM Singh said the second phase would aim to reforest an additional 12,000 hectares of land, scale up efforts in biodiversity conservation and skill the members of 135 additional communities in different trades. “The project is working closely with the women of these communities by empowering them through participatory planning and training them in new skills that will enable them to revive the local economy, protect forest resources and increase their financial independence,” Singh said.
The French ambassador and his delegation were in Assam over the weekend to assess the impacts of the project so far and interact with the forest department staff and beneficiaries. Lenain said some 40,000 villagers are expected to be directly benefitted by the programme. “We are very proud of this and we intend to showcase the programme as an example at international forums,” he said.
Mentioning that the programme would not go on forever and mere developmental assistance was not enough, Lenain said the focus now should be on empowering the communities so that they can sustain themselves as well as the biodiversity.
The agreement was signed between AFD Country Director Bruno Bosle and Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Assam, Environment and Forest Department Jishnu Barua in the presence of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Ambassador of France to India Emmanuel Lenain and Environment & Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya.