Shimla, August 9
The Rs 2,700-crore Renuka Dam project will be the first in the country to implement the concept of “payment for eco-services” (PES) with the Forest Department earmarking an amount of Rs 10 crore for the purpose.
The allocation of funds has been made in accordance with the new guidelines framed by the government for the implementation of Catchment Area Treatment (CAT) plans under which at least 10 per cent of the total amount has to be spent on the PES to provide direct financial benefits to the community.
The concept of PES has also been incorporated in the 775-MW Luhri hydroelectric project but it will take some time to reach the implementation stage.
The department assigned the task of preparing a “scoping document” to the Winrock International, a non-government organisation, working in the areas of natural resources management, clean energy and climate change, which has provided blueprint for the conservation of ecosystem with the involvement of local people.
The focus of various initiatives under the PES concept will be on improving water quality and discharge in various tributaries in the catchment by checking soil erosion and enhancing water retention.
The measures will not only be confined to afforestation and check dams but also include change in land use and agrarian practices to help preserve and restore forest ecosystem by improving biodiversity, water sources and other natural resources. However, enhancing livelihoods will be the cornerstone of the PES to maximise benefits to villagers for which the strategy will be to meet the needs of the forest-dependent communities through improved non-wood forest produce and promoting eco-tourism.
Additional Chief Secretary, forests, Avay Shukla said quality of water and discharge would be constantly monitored and payment to villagers be made only if there was a discernible improvement. Parameters and procedures for scientific monitoring of eco-system was being evolved with the help of the NGO engaged as consultant.
To begin with a pilot scheme would be started in selected pockets and later extended to the entire catchment. The models, thus, evolved would be replicated in various other projects.
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of forests JS Walia said, “The project authorities will provide Rs 100 crore for CAT plan out of which Rs 10 crore will be paid as PES to stakeholders, which can be individual farmers or organised groups who carry out initiatives to improve the quality of water and overall environment.
If financial benefits flow directly to local people they will come forward to adopt eco-friendly farm practices and preserve green cover and environment.”