Punjab Cabinet okays policy for compensatory afforestation in projects affecting up to 1 hectare forest area

Till date, approximately more than 28,000 acres of forest area has been diverted for multiple private and public projects

Punjab Cabinet okays policy for compensatory afforestation in projects affecting up to 1 hectare forest area

Chandigarh: The Punjab Cabinet led by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday approved a comprehensive policy for compensatory afforestation in the projects affecting forest area upto one hectare, under the jurisdiction of the State Government.

            The policy, which incorporates the elements of required balancing of economy and environment, is in line with General Approval issued by the Government of India to the Forest and Wildlife Preservation department under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

            The Cabinet also authorized the Chief Minister to approve any future amendments in the said policy.

            A spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office said that as per the policy, user agencies requiring land for their bonafide use would submit undertakings, either to provide equivalent non-forest land or the cost of land in lieu of forest land, as per the collector rate + 30%. The offered non-forest land must be free from all encumbrances and must have clear and undisputed ownership and possession.

            If the user agency opts for providing cost of land, the collected amount will be deposited in bank account opened for this purpose with Punjab State Forest Development Corporation (PSFDC) and amount thus deposited would be utilised for the purpose of procurement of non-forest land. The PSFDC shall ensure that during a particular financial year, it shall purchase land for Compensatory Afforestation to the extent of using 80% of the funds that existed as opening balance of 1st April of that financial year. In addition, the PSFDC would also purchase outright the available panchayat's lands on priority basis at collector rate +30%. This will be reviewed by a tripartite committee.

            Outlining the benefits of the policy, the spokesperson said that it provides for creation of significant chunk of additional land bank, which can be utilized by the User Agency. Therefore, the forest clearance for important development projects of the State would not be delayed, as the land for Compensatory Afforestation would be made available to the sponsoring Department by PSFDC. Besides, the Policy would also enable the User Agencies to provide either equivalent non-forest land or the cost of affected forest land as per the prevailing collector rate +30% as per their convenience. The suitable Panchayat lands would be brought under Compensatory Afforestation to enhance the green cover in the country side of the State.

            As per Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the forest areas are being diverted for all site specific projects of the State causing loss of area under forest leading to grave ecological imbalances. The Compensatory Afforestation on Non-forest land will appropriately compensate the said loss and would mitigate the overall negative impact of diversion of forest area on environment.

            Till date, approximately more than 28,000 acres of forest area has been diverted for multiple private and public projects with the permission of Government of India/State Government for non-forestry purposes under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. In addition, approximately 1,34,500 acres of land under the Punjab Land Protection Act (PLPA), 1900 has been conditionally removed from the list of forests by the State after the approval of Government of India.
            In another decision, the Punjab Cabinet gave approval to amend the guidelines for proper utilisation of funds under ‘PM-10-State level initiatives-Punjab Nirman Programme’. This will help improve the living conditions of the people in both rural and urban areas, besides addressing their felt developmental needs, thus ensuring no hurdle in its implementation.
            According to amended guidelines, all works under the Punjab Nirman Programme, launched in 2006, would be proposed by the Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development)/Additional Deputy Commissioner (Urban Development), before a District Level Committee under the Chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner. Besides, the committee would include all Commissioners of Municipal Corporation in the district, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development), Additional Deputy Commissioner (Urban Development), District Development and Panchayat Officer as its Members, while the Deputy Economic & Statistical Adviser would be its Member Secretary.
            Further, the works to be undertaken under the programme would be implemented through Government Body/PRIs/ULBs, or as may be deemed appropriate by the Deputy Commissioner, and as per the guidelines of respective departments. The allocation of funds to the districts would be made under provisions of the ‘Punjab Nirman Programme’.