The government has merged National Mission for a Green India, which aims afforestation at 10 million hectares of land over the next decade, with MGNREGA to increase and improve the country's forest cover.

Modern technology like remote sensing will be used to monitor the progress of this initiative regularly.

Currently, green works such as water harvesting, afforestation and farm foresty are undertaken under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme implemented by Rural Development Ministry.

The government is also eyeing at increasing 10 million hectares of forest cover under the 'National Mission for a Green India' being implemented by the Environment Ministry.

"To further synergise these efforts and to collectively address the climate change concerns, the government has come out with convergence guidelines after consulting both Environment and Rural Development Ministries," a senior government official said.

The convergence guidelines sets out the approach to be adopted to strengthen co-ordination at field-level for developing forest cover and improving forest-based livelihoods for about three million households.

According to the guidelines issued by the Environment Ministry, all lands including village common lands, community lands, revenue wastelands, shifting cultivation areas, wetlands and private agricultural lands will be eligible for afforestation under this convergence.

Under MGNREGA, forest works such as pre-plantation, pit digging, planting and watering, fencing, plant support and protection activities, weeding, mulching and manuring the plants among others can be undertaken for afforestation.

State Forest Development Agencies (SFDA) will provide technical advice on plant species suitable for area, raise nurseries and deliver required plant material to each gram panchayat before July each year meeting the cost from MGNREGA funds.

"However, where there is a shortage of funds under MGNREGA, it may be topped up from Green India Mission funds," the guidelines said.

Source: 23 March, 2015, The Economics Times