Home / Politics / Policy /  Draft National Forest Policy proposes green tax to address forestry woes

New Delhi: The environment ministry has released the draft of India’s new National Forest Policy (NFP), proposing the levy of a green tax for facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour, supplementing financial resources essential to address forestry woes.

NFP is an overarching policy for forest management to bring a minimum one-third of India’s total geographical area under forest or tree cover. The proposed NFP follows the last edition in 1988.

“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," says the draft policy.

“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 for facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour, garnering citizen’s contribution and supplementing financial resources," the policy said.

According to the India State of Forest Report 2015, released in December 2015, India’s forest and tree cover makes up 24.16% of its geographical area. Read here

The ministry put the draft policy in the public domain last week and sought public feedback by 30 June, providing only 15 days for stakeholders to comment on its provisions. Once finalized, the policy will guide the forest management of the country for the next 25-30 years.

The ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) started working on revising the 1988 version of the forest policy to come up with an overarching policy to address pressure exerted on forest resources by rapid economic development. Read more

The policy has been prepared by the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), run by the environment ministry.

Besides specifying how to manage forests, the draft policy said, “Other ecosystems such as alpine meadows, grasslands, deserts, marine and coastal areas should be protected and managed as well."

It also calls for “safeguard(ing) forest lands by exercising strict restraint on diversion for non-forestry purposes" like mining and other industrial projects.

Diversion of forests for industrial projects has been a contentious issue in the country with environmentalists calling for a more sustainable approach that would leave pristine forests untouched.

“Forest land diversion projects related to mining, quarrying, construction of dams, roads and other linear infrastructure need to adopt special caution. Use of state-of-the-art technology which causes minimum pollution and damage should be promoted," the proposed policy added.

As per MoEFCC’s records, since 1980, a total of 1.21 million hectares of forest land has been diverted; the area accommodated 23,784 proposals for non-forestry purposes—primarily mining and industrial projects. Nearly 400,000 hectares have been diverted in Madhya Pradesh alone, followed by over 100,000 hectares each in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.

The draft policy also called for developing “sound ecotourism 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 policy said.

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