THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: What if the state is reeling under a huge deficit, it has a thick forest cover to bank on. The LDF government has made a unique proposal to the Centre: exchange a portion of the state’s burgeoning debt for the money the state pumps into conservation activities. Debt-for-Nature Swap, generally used as an incentive in international diplomacy, is an arrangement where a part of the debt of a developing nation is written off by advanced countries in return for local ecological initiatives.
“The goal of ecological conservation will be better served if a state that invests in conservation is rewarded by a compensatory reduction in outstanding liabilities,” an official note prepared by the environment department said. The state government, in a clear move to drum up wide support for the proposal, has asked for the introduction of the debt swap arrangement for all the six Western Ghats states.
The official expectation is that the debt waiver incentive will goad the state to spend considerably more on conservation. Though the state has a healthy forest cover, it has gaping holes. The forest cover is around 17,300 sq km, but dense forests are found only in 1,442 sq km. And for over 37 percent of the forests, the canopy cover is less than 40 percent.
The state’s request has acquired urgency after various sub-groups set up by the ministry of environment and forests under the new dispensation have recommended such an arrangement. The MoEF sub-groups have suggested that a part of these payments should be retained by the state governments and a part be used to finance local conservation trust funds.
In several countries, the finest example being Guatemala where $24 million of its debt was waived off and re-channelled, these trusts disburse grants to community projects for improving forest productivity and ensuring sustainable forest-based livelihoods in ecologically sensitive areas....