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India supreme court releases US$2.3 bln for forests

INDIA'S supreme court has released US$2.3 billion of frozen funds to be used to boost forest density and wildlife habitats, the Ministry of Environment and Forests said.

The money would help improve tree cover on 6 million hectares (60,000 sq km) of degraded forest land, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has told local media.

"This money has been released by the Supreme Court," said Kalpana Palkhiwala, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The decision comes as India, the world's fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter, and other major developing nations face increasing pressure to agree to curbs on carbon pollution from their rapidly expanding economies.

Forests soak up large amounts of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming and produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

India says it will not agree to binding emission cuts and wants rich nations to pledge deeper cuts of their own and promise billions in climate funds as part of a deal on a broader climate pact the United Nations hopes to seal at the end of the year.

India released its first National Action Plan on Climate Change in 2008, in which one objective was promoting afforestation -- creating a new forest where none had existed or where it has not been a forest for a long period.

About 10 percent of the forest money will be released each year for the next five years, and the bulk will go to five Indian states with large forest areas.

The funds had piled up as companies given forest land by the government paid compensation. But the windfall was left untouched in a seven-year deadlock over how it should be spent and how much control federal and state governments would each get.


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