NEW DELHI: To waive mandatory permission for cutting trees on private land, the Centre is reaching to states seeking amendment in the specific legislation for the preservation of trees. The move is to allow corporate sector and individuals to start tree plantation on big scale for timber production keeping in mind that India imports Rs 45,000 crore of timber annually.
Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change as part of its five year future plan proposed converting India into a timber exporter. But the biggest hurdle in achieving this is the Indian Forest Act, 1927 under which each state has laid down rules and regulations against tree felling. “Punjab and Haryana with no forest are the biggest producers of timber and you don’t need forest to do timber but trees outside forest. If we give permission to plant forest and cut and sell, people will do it,” said a top environment ministry official.
The Centre is trying to reach out to all states for bringing amendment in their state-specific tree preservation Act. At present permission has to be sought for felling of trees and the penalty of feeling tress without permission ranges from state to state with monetary fine up to Rs 5000 and imprisonment upto six months. There have been instances where people were penalized for cutting trees on their private land.
“We are looking at private participation but you have to give freedom from the tree Act and invite private funding for degraded forest on commercial basis. If want change degraded forest to medium dense forest, we need close to Rs 3.5 lakh crore and government doesn’t have that kind of funding,” the official said.