NEW DELHI: With an eye on Goa Assembly elections next year, the Centre has decided to relax norms for carrying out construction in identified private forest area after concerns were raised by locals across the state.
With the state up for a multi-party contest and realising that delay in addressing concerns of people could prove electorally troublesome, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union environment ministry has recommended that one-time permission be given for construction of homestead/residential houses of up to 250 sqm to owners of the private area (deemed forest) in Goa.
The FAC cited a similar decision taken in Uttarakhand, another election-bound state, where a comprehensive guideline handbook has been issued by the ministry to deal with specific cases pertaining to private forest area in Mussoorie.
This guideline permits use of up to 250 sqm area for residential purpose by homestead owners for bona fide use and not for commercial ventures.
In Goa, a substantial percentage of land comes under private forest ownership. About 46 sq km has been identified as private forests and a review process is in progress.
In a letter to the Centre in April, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that since private forest attracts provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, owners of private forest are facing hardships, both financial and physical, as well as spend precious time in approaching Central government for diversion of even a very small part of their private forest area for genuine needs.
“Similar to other project proponents, they are also required to pay applicable cost of Net Present Value, land and cost for Compensatory Afforestation. In view of above, it was requested that appropriate policy interventions and relaxation in the relevant Acts/rules may be considered to provide appropriate relief and financial incentives to people of Goa, whose land have been identified as private forests,” his letter said.