Ramesh comes up with new idea to speed up forest clearances

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New Delhi, Jan 24 (PTI) Facing flak from industriesover alleged delay in projects due to green rules, EnvironmentMinistry today came out with a new proposal of "compensatoryafforestation" to help them get early forest clearances.

After a closed door meeting with industrialists,organised by FICCI here, Environment Minister Jairam Rameshsaid the issue of forest clearances was much more serious thanthe issue of environmental clearances.

"I have assured industry today we will try how can weexpedite clearances," the minister said and suggested thatcompensatory afforestation is an idea which could be explored.

Noting that out of the country''s total 70 millionhectares of forest cover, about 28 million hectares aredegraded forest lands, he said, "One idea is that we use thedegraded forest land for compensatory afforestation."

But it should be done on the clear understanding thatthe ownership of that land does not pass to the industry, theMinister said.

"It is not used as a captive plantation for theindustry. This would be regeneration of forests. I think thismay be one solution to the problems we are having aboutforest clearances," Ramesh said.

The Minister, who discussed the idea with forestofficials, said he has got "generally positive reactions tothis" from the industry.

"This way we will be able to evolve industry in theregeneration of degraded forest land without necessarilytransferring the ownership of land to the industry, which is asocial concern and without losing that forest land forplantations," he said.

The Minister also proposed incentives for theindustries showing good environmental performances anddisincentives for bad environmental show.

He said he has taken up the matter to Finance MinisterPranab Mukherjee in the context of the forthcoming budget.

"I think, the finance minister will have something tosay in the budget," the minister added.

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