CDM in the Forestry Sector

Dr Anish Chatterjee     

At the Ninth Conference of the Parties (CoP9) of the Climate Change Convention, many of the LULUCF issues of the Protocol were finally settled and a decision was made to allow certain forms of sinks – afforestation and reforestation projects – to be carried out under the CDM. The developing countries who are party to the Kyoto Protocol can now avail this benefit of carbon credits from their forestry activities. The present article critically examines some of the aspects of CDM in forestry sector in India.

The forest cover of India is estimated to be 63.73 million hectares in terms of its area, constituting 19.39 percent of the country’s total geographic area. Out of this, 11.48 percent is dense forest, 7.76 percent is open forest and 0.15 percent is mangrove forest.

Sequestration Capacity of Indian Forests

The average annual wood production is 52 million cubic meter (cum). The sequestration capacity can be computed in two ways: by volume of biomass and by total forest area.

The total volume of wood production can be converted into total biomass by assuming a mean wood density of 0.52 t/m3.  The ratio of total biomass to usable stem biomass was assumed by the German Bundestag to be 1.6 for closed forests and 3 for open forest.  In this present analysis, an average figure of 2.3 has been assumed.  One cum. of stem wood is therefore equivalent to 2.3m3 of total bimoass.

One cum. of biomass (stem, roots, branches, etc.) absorbs 0.26 tonnes of carbon (tc).  Since the annual production of biomass from the Indian forests is 52 million cum, the total annual CO2 sequestration capacity of our forests works out to be approximately 31 million tc (mtc).

However, if we assume the carbon sequestration figure given by R.A. Sedjo (Forest to offset the Greenhouse Effect. Journal of Forestry, 1989, 87.7: 12-15.)  for tropical forests as 6.24 tc/ha/yr and adopt the same for the total Indian forest cover of 64 mha (1991) and 77 mha(present), the sequestration capacity of Indian forests is very encouraging.

The total annual sequestration capacity of Indian forest works out to be 399 mtc (1479 million tonnes of CO2 emissions), which is practically ten times more than the sequestration capacity computed by taking the total volume of biomass (31 mtc).

Considering that dense forest cover not only provides a carbon sink but also preserves the biological diversity, urgent steps are required to speed up afforestation and reforestation activities in India, more so to take advantage of the recently approved CDM project activities in the forestry sector.

Opportunity for Indian Forestry

Afforestation and reforestation activities moderate the climate and precipitation regimes of a given area; prevent soil erosion and increase the water retention capacity of the land; increase soil fertility by ensuring the perennial addition of organic matter to the soil; and thereby both reverse land degradation and increase its commercial value. 

Afforestation and reforestation activities pursued under CDM project activities offer considerable opportunity to achieve sustainable (economic, social, environmental and technological) development of the forest community and to improve their quality of life. Such afforestation and reforestation activities could then be continued under the country’s normal forestry programme. 

The present annual rate of afforestation in India, which is about 2 million hectares (under various programmes such as social forestry, watershed development and wasteland development), can be significantly increased by CDM forestry projects.

Few Concerns

The CDM LULUCF policy has not escaped criticism. It has been criticized by environmentalists, as it allows for forestry that is not environment- friendly, as it leaves the door open for monoculture plantations (biodiversity concerns), even for GM plants.

There is little opportunity for stakeholder involvement. For developing countries, CDM is seen as a mechanism for sustainable development. If the communities are not involved and the benefits are not transferred to them, then whose sustainable development are we talking about?

I would also like to highlight the gender implications of LULUCF projects. The main concern for women is the availability of fuel wood for cooking, which they collect free from the surrounding areas. The concern is whether we are depriving the women of easy availability of fuel wood and increasing their drudgery, in the name of development.

Another concern is negotiating with the buyers. The buyers would try to get maximum carbon credits at a minimum possible price. Will it be possible for the developing countries to stand up to their pressure and get higher values of carbon credits?

One more concern is that during the first commitment period (up to 2012), management activities of existing forests are not eligible for LULUCF projects. Does that mean we promote afforestation and reforestation in one area and degradation/deforestation in another area? Or, are they left for the National Governments of developing countries to take care of them?

These are some of the concerns that need to be answered at CoP 10.


It may be undoubtedly concluded that the positives of Forestry CDM projects outweigh the negatives. A developing country like India could benefit immensely from this market based mechanism, provided it can negotiate well in international carbon markets. We are optimistic that something positive and meaningful for the poor, who suffer the most, would emanate from CoP 10 decisions and the gender factor is taken care of in the sustainability aspect of the projects. A country like India, which has already set up the Designated National Authority (DNA), and is taking positive steps, may encourage forestry projects. While important issues of national sovereignty and ownership of afforested areas and participation of local communities in CDM activities would have to be negotiated prior to the commencement of the initiatives, the potential benefits are obvious.  Therefore, India should capitalize on the present CDM initiative in the forestry sector. q

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