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India's First CDM-approved Wasteland Restoration Project Launched

India’s first project aimed at recovery of barren land and its restoration through afforestation has been approved under the Clean Development Mechanism in the state of Haryana. The project will cover eight villages in the Sirsa district and will benefit hundreds of farmers.

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The Forest department of the state government has entered into an official contract with the farmers of these villages wherein they will be paid through the Clean Development Mechanism for plantation of plants such as Jund, Eucalyptus, Sheesham, Beri and Dates. Farmers have already planted these and several other cash crops over a 300 hectare land.

The Forest department had provided extensive benefits to the farmers when the project was launched. The farmers are planting cash crops as well as orchards on wastelands which have not been cultivated since 1990. Incentives such as 100 percent subsidy on water tanks for irrigation and other farming equipment had been provided to farmers. The farmers are allowed to keep all the proceeds earned by selling the harvests.

Social and Economic Welfare

The approval of this project is first of its kind in India which is the world’s largest benefactor of the CDM’s carbon credit transactions. Several Indian companies and projects have earned carbon credits for the use of greenhouse gas mitigation technologies. However, there have been several instances where these projects have attracted controversies.

For example, the Jindal South West steel factory in the south Indian village of Toranagallu has earned over $150 million worth of carbon credits as it utilizes waste gases, produced during steel manufacturing, for power generation. The project has, however, polluted the village’s water supply and the air quality has also deteriorated. The company plans to invest additional $50 million to establish another plant which would earn an estimated 700,000 CERs every year.

The carbon offsetting mechanism continues to the cheapest tool at the industrial countries’ disposal to keep their carbon emissions within limits and mitigate the harmful impacts of carbon emissions. But it is very important to consider all the aspects related to a particular project looking to earn carbon credits. Economic and social impacts of these projects on the local people must also be considered.

This particular project in Sirsa seems an ideal CDM project. Not only it will offset the carbon emission generated in the industrial countries, it will also help in the reclamation of barren and wastelands which could possibly turned in to fertile lands for food crops through years of plantation. The project will also help farmers earn a livelihood through the sale of the harvest produced as well as the money generated by selling the carbon credits sold to carbon intensive industries of the European Union.

There is immense potential for such projects as India has 165,000 acres of wasteland. The Indian government has already set aside 40 percent of this area for biofuel plantations. Such projects can also apply for funding under the Clean Development Mechanism. Additionally, thousands of famers around the country are under severe financial burdens and the government can offer such incentives to them as well. These projects would also help in the economic development of the rural areas to make them self-reliant.

Such projects with multifold benefits should be the target of the United Nations which runs the Clean Development Mechanism. The UN has earned a fair share of criticism for the type of projects it has approved and has shown intent of reforming the CDM. Hopefully, the projects approved in the future will be examined for social, economic and other impacts which affect the local population directly.

Source: UNFCCC Project Database

Photo credit: sallylondon at Flickr (Creative Commons)

The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.

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Written By

Mridul currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

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