The French Development Agency (AFD) and the Assam Government have signed a 50 million euro project agreement towards supporting the state government's initiative to restore Assam's forest ecosystem and preserve its biodiversity.
AFD Country Director Bruno Bosle and state's Additional Chief Secretary (Environment and Forest Department) Jishnu Barua signed the agreement in the presence of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Ambassador of France to India Emmanuel Lenain and Assam Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya during a meeting held on Monday.
The signing of the agreement marks the launch of the second phase of Assam Project for Forest and Biodiversity Conservation (APFBC), which aims to reforest an additional 12,000 hectares of land, scale up efforts in biodiversity conservation and skill the members of 135 additional communities in different trades.
The second phase of financing will continue for five years with the aim of increasing the project's coverage area and corresponding impacts.
The first phase of the project was implemented between 2012 and 2019 with support from AFD in response to the threats posed by deforestation, poaching, and overdependence of local communities on forest resources across the state to reforest 21,000 hectares of land, build 33 flood refuge sites for wildlife, and train over 6,000 members of the local communities in alternative livelihoods so as to reduce their dependence on forests.
The project has also built up the capacities of Forest Department, particularity its frontline staff, to reinforce its key missions.
"The state government after coming to power took a resolve to plant 100 million trees in the state and a remarkable achievement has been made," said Sonowal.
Stating that Assam is very rich in natural resources, he said the state government is committed to preserving its bio-diversity. He also urged the students to take active part in plantation drive to increase the green cover.
Speaking at the event, Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain said, "This project reinforces the commitment of India and France towards the restoration and preservation of rich and diverse natural ecosystems. Biodiversity conservation will remain a priority for our 2020 bilateral agenda, and we look forward to lessons from this collaboration, which has already yielded tangible results, being shared in India and international forums."
The project works particularly closely with women of local communities, empowering them through participatory planning and training them in new skills, thus enabling them to revive the local economy, protect forest resources and increase their financial independence.