SC exempts all for any activity in forest land from payment of NP

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New Delhi, May 3 (UNI) The Supreme Court has exempted public utility projects, rural and tribal development activities and construction of roads by defence forces in border areas and minor irrigation projects in forest areas from payment of Net Present Value (NPV).

A bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Arijit Pasayat and H S Kapadia also accepted the recommendations of the experts'committee and ruled that the land of national parks and sanctuaries in forest areas would be permitted to be used only under totally unavoidable circumstances for public interest projects and after obtaining permission from the Supreme Court.

Such request may be considered on payment of an amount equal to ten times NPV payable for such areas in the case of wildlife sanctuaries.

The apex court has also directed that in respect of non-forest land falling within marine national parks /wildlife sanctuaries, the amount may be fixed at five times the NPV payable for the adjoining forest areas.

The experts' committee headed by Kanchan Chopra had classified forest area in seven categories for fixing NPV.

For dense forest areas, the NPV for class I and II has been fixed at Rs 10,40000 per hectare which is to be desposited in the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF).

NPV payable for dense forest is 9,39000 and for open forest it is 7,30000.

For class III, the NPV is Rs 8, 87000, 8,3000, 6 26000 respectively for non-forestry use/diversion of forest land.

The apex court has also ruled that NPV rates would be applicable with prospective effect and would be reviewed after three years.

The apex court has, however, exempted from payment of NPV the minor irrigation projects upto ten hectares of storage area, rural infrastructure and basic services such as the construction of village roads and the construction of overhead tanks, housing for the rehabilitation of tribals, laying of the underground optical fibre cable, activities necessary for the ecological management, relocation of the villagers from the sanctuaries and the national parks , regularisation of pre-1980 unelligible encroachers, construction of transmission lines ancd public utility projects such as schools, hospitals, childrens' playground of non-commercial nature and the public welfare projects such as community centres in rural areas which require forest land upto two hectares, laying of the pipeline for the underground gas transportation,like district and rural roads and shifting of cultivation and the apex court, in its order, said ,''the above recommendations for exemption are accepted.If in any case, exemption is required by nature of peculiar circumstances of the case ,the same would be decided as and when necessary on a case-to-case basis.

The central government in the meantime has told the Supreme Court that since the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has been reconstituted the centrally empowered committee appointed by this court should forward its recommendations for clearance of projects in forest areas to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for approval instead of forwarding the same to the Supreme Court fot its approval.

The Supreme Court has also said the economic development would not be at the cost of complete degradation of the forest or the environment and ecosystem provided by the green area of the forest.

UNI SY RK1815

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