Ramesh comes up with new idea to speed up forest clearances

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said the issue of forest clearances was much more serious than the issue of environmental clearances.

Updated: Jan 24, 2011, 23:58 PM IST

New Delhi: Facing flak from industries
over alleged delay in projects due to green rules, Environment
Ministry on Monday came out with a new proposal of "compensatory
afforestation" to help them get early forest clearances.

After a closed door meeting with industrialists,
organised by FICCI here, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh
said the issue of forest clearances was much more serious than
the issue of environmental clearances.

"I have assured industry today we will try how can we
expedite clearances," the minister said and suggested that
compensatory afforestation is an idea which could be explored.

Noting that out of the country`s total 70 million
hectares of forest cover, about 28 million hectares are
degraded forest lands, he said, "One idea is that we use the
degraded forest land for compensatory afforestation."

But it should be done on the clear understanding that
the ownership of that land does not pass to the industry, the
Minister said.

"It is not used as a captive plantation for the
industry. This would be regeneration of forests. I think this
may be one solution to the problems we are having about
forest clearances," Ramesh said.

The Minister, who discussed the idea with forest
officials, said he has got "generally positive reactions to
this" from the industry.

"This way we will be able to evolve industry in the
regeneration of degraded forest land without necessarily
transferring the ownership of land to the industry, which is a
social concern and without losing that forest land for
plantations," he said.

The Minister also proposed incentives for the
industries showing good environmental performances and
disincentives for bad environmental show.

He said he has taken up the matter to Finance Minister
Pranab Mukherjee in the context of the forthcoming budget.
"I think, the finance minister will have something to
say in the budget," the minister added.

PTI