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Centre eases rules for trees on private land

Asks states to register growth, felling and sale of timber at local levels, instead of blanket bans

Somesh Jha  |  New Delhi 

In a bid to liberalise the “permit raj” governing agro-forestry, the Union environment ministry has issued guidelines to simplify the rules for growing, felling and transportation of trees grown on private lands.

The guidelines, issued on July 11, allow farmers and other tree growers to dispose and transport short-rotation timber species grown on their own property and not available in neighbouring forests, with permission from village-level bodies. The present regulation on felling of timber and transit permits varies from state to state, which discouraged farmers and tree planters from growing trees on their own land.

This is expected to begin the process of easing the existing set of rules that govern management of fast-growing species such as poplar and bamboo. For high-value species, such as teak, the new guidelines do advise a regulated environment but are a bit more open than before.

NEW GREEN NORMS
  • The new guidelines, issued on July 11, allow farmers and other tree growers to dispose and transport short-rotation timber species grown on their own property and not available in neighbouring forests, with permission from village-level bodies
  • This is expected to begin the process of easing the existing set of rules that govern management of fast-growing species such as poplar and bamboo

As forests are in the Constitution’s concurrent list, the Centre can issue guidelines but not go beyond; however, these have usually been replicated by states in the past. "The guidelines will create an atmosphere of confidence for the states to look towards more sustainable use of forest products, rather than have a blanket ban in mind," the official said.

"We will convince the state governments to adopt forest passbook-type schemes, so that high-value trees like sandalwood, teak, etc, are encouraged to be grown on non-forest land," said a government official, on condition of anonymity. He said a system where trees grown on farms or private lands could be registered and traded would help meet the demand for better wood.

As the regulatory mechanism is not uniform across states, there is a need for a simple and uniform mechanism to regulate the transit rules of forest produce within a state and across states, the guidelines say.

States, the official added, would be pushed to create a system where, on an annual basis, they provide a list of trees before the growing season so that farmers are allowed to grow these with the confidence that it would be easy to sell, without cumbersome procedures.

After states such as Kerala found difficulty in getting permission to cut trees on private land and transport timber outside a forest area under the present provisions, the Union government had constituted a committee in June 2011 to study the current regime, headed by a former additional director-general of forests, A K Bansal.

The new guidelines are based on the recommendation of this committee. The aim is to benefit farmers, tribals, private land owners, landowning agencies, financial institutions, industries and others who control or own lands other than forest land, to encourage tree plantation.

The idea is primarily to encourage agro forestry, meeting the input needs of forest-based industries. The committee had noted that states which had the least restrictions on tree felling and transit had "succeeded in large-scale agro-forestry and farm forestry".

The guidelines asked for forest officers to dispose of permissions to cut and transit trees in a "transparent and time-bound process". To encourage inter-state movement of timber derived from agro forestry plantations on private land, the ministry has mooted the idea of a regional coordination committee of the states concerned, to look into the issues and facilitate easy movement.

"Interstate movement of timber derived from agro forestry plantations or trees from non-forest lands needs to be facilitated for benefiting tree growers to get the best market price," the environment ministry said.

At present there are various tree species which are exempted in some states but banned in adjoining ones. Hence, the guidelines look to bring a coordination mechanism among neighbouring states and uniformity in transit rules.

"The produce/timber obtained from non-forest lands, which is to be transported from a state to other states, may be covered under an appropriate mechanism through mutual consultation such as a nationally valid permit for such consignments," the document said.

The ministry has asked states to simplify procedures to encourage people to take up agro forestry and relax rules for felling trees and transit of forest produce.

First Published: Mon, July 28 2014. 00:48 IST
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