Draft forest policy out, brace for green tax The environment ministry has come out with a draft National Forest Policy (NFP), proposing levy of a green tax while calling for safeguarding forest land by exercising strict restraint on diversion for non-forestry purposes like mining and industrial projects and practising responsible eco-tourism in forest areas to ensure safety of wildlife. The policy is aimed at facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour among stakeholders.
The new policy, which aims to bring a minimum one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest or tree cover through scientific interventions and enforcing strict rules to protect the dense cover, will replace the existing one that has been guiding the government to manage forests since 1988.
The ministry has put out the draft policy, prepared by the Bhopal-based Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), in public domain seeking feedback from experts, civil society, environmentalists and other stakeholders by June 30. “A new policy will come out after going through suggestions of these people. Best suggestions will be incorporated in the new policy,” said an official to ET.
Once finalised after incorporating all the relevant suggestions, the policy will guide the forest management of the country for the next 25-30 years. On generating resources to manage the forest cover, the draft policy said the budget of the forestry sector should be appropriately enhanced so that the objectives enshrined in this policy can be achieved.
“Environmental cess, green tax, carbon tax etc. may be levied on certain products and services,” the draft policy said.
It noted, “Forests and trees constitute nearly one fourth of the geographic area of the country. Protection of this vast and valuable resource, improving and increasing the forest and tree cover requires adequate investment keeping in view the pressures on these forests, and the ecosystem services that they provide to the nation. Large tracts of forest area in the country have degraded due to immense biotic pressure and lack of adequate investment.”
Referring to the contentious issue of diversion of forests for mining and industrial projects, the draft policy said, “Forest land diversion projects related to mining, quarrying, construction of dams, roads and other linear infrastructure needs to adopt special caution. Use of state-of-the-art technology which causes minimum pollution and damage should be promoted.” The draft policy also called for developing “sound eco-tourism models” with the focus on conservation while supplementing the livelihood needs of local communities. “Ensure that tourism is responsible, does not negatively impact wildlife and its habitat and maximizes the income of the local community,” the draft policy said.