April 11, 2014
Dehradun, April 11, 2014: The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) today signed a loan agreement with the Government of India to provide 11,390 Million Japanese Yen (Rs 682 crore approximately) of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) for the Uttarakhand Forest Resource Management Project. The agreement was signed in New Delhi by Mr. Shinya Ejima, Chief Representative of JICA in India and Mr. Rajesh Khullar representing Ministry of Finance, Government of India. The loan at a concessional interest rate of 0.30% carries a repayment period of 40 years with a grace period of 10 years.
The project aims to improve natural environment and livelihood of people living in and around the forest areas with the loan funds used for afforestation and income generation of local communities. In addition, the project will support implementation of disaster reconstruction and prevention measures in the forest area of the Uttarakhand state, where heavy rains caused devastating floods and landslides in June 2013. The executing agency for the project is Uttarakhand Forest Department. The project is expected to be completed by March 2022.
The population growth rate in Uttarakhand during 2001-2011 was 18.8%, exceeding the national average of 17.6%. Population in rural areas, which accounts for more than 70% of the total state population, increased nearly two-folds in a 30 year period of 1981-2011. The majority of rural population depends on forest resources for their livelihoods. Increase in population and livestock has pushed up their demands for fuel woods, fodders, and pasture lands, leading to deforestation of approximately 2,000 ha every year. Degraded forest in the state is estimated at 80% of the total forest land and the area has increased by 150,000 ha between 2005 and 2011. The project aims to reverse such deforestation trend.
Additionally, heavy rains in June 2013 have caused unprecedented floods and landslides in the state, affecting 4,200 villages mainly located in the northern part of the state and leaving about 6,000 people dead or missing. The rural areas suffered damages in basic infrastructure, floods and disaster prevention facilities such as embankments, and forests and agricultural lands. These damages have caused serious negative impacts mainly on the poor who are vulnerable to external risks including natural disasters. The project is treated as part of the reconstruction efforts underway with the assistance of external development partners.
According to Mr. Shinya Ejima, Chief Representative of JICA in India, "The forest area in Uttarakhand has not only huge degradation pressure but also suffered severe damages during the disaster in June 2013. This project will contribute to eco-restoration of the forest area in conformity with the improvement of the livelihoods of the communities by undertaking measures for rehabilitation of degraded forest, income generation, community development, and disaster mitigation."
Established as an independent administrative institution, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) aims to contribute to the promotion of international cooperation as well as the sound development of developing regions.
The JICA works to help developing countries become self reliant in pursuing their own socio-economic development. Its aim is to act as a bridge between Japan and developing countries so that their knowledge and experience can be shared and developing nations can strengthen their own problem solving capabilities.