NEW DELHI: If the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has its way, soon you might have to pay a fee to access natural resources such as water, forest and soil.
The ministry has apprised the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Niti Aayog of the proposal. It has also called for creating a National Environment Restoration Fund (NERF) to clean up the country’s polluted rivers and sites contaminated with toxic waste.
According to the documents accessed, the plan is to create the fund from “voluntary contributions and user fee for access to specified natural resources”.
As per the plan, “penalties levied for violations of environmental-related Acts may also be deposited in NERF”. A final decision may be taken on it in the next few months.
It, however, remains to be seen how such a fund, when created, would be integrated with other programmes of the ministry. For instance, there already exists a compensatory afforestation fund which has over `40,000 crore collected in exchange of forest land given for industrial projects
The move comes even as the Clean Ganga fund launched a few years ago by the government is yet to bear fruit. The scheme was launched to raise funds for cleaning of the holy river and also involve people at large. But the majority of the money in the said fund came from public sector units.
Similar to this umbrella fund, the MoEF is also mulling setting up a National Environment and Forestry Council (NEFC) to look into all environment and sustainability-related issues.
The idea is to create a “high-powered body, the National Environment National Environment and Forestry Council (NEFC), with the Prime Minister as chairperson, aided and advised by a group of experts”.
It may also have representation from key Union ministries such as External Affairs, Science and Technology, Tribal Affairs, Agriculture, Commerce, Urban Development, Rural Development and others. “Such a high-powered body would provide useful and valuable guidance for environmental sustainability,” sources added.