Itanagar, Mar 16 (PTI) The Arunachal Pradesh government has directed deputy commissioners of all 26 districts to compile a list of reserve areas and submit it to the state government so that permission can be taken from the Supreme Court for de-reservation of forest areas, Forest and Environment Minister Mama Natung informed the state Assembly on Wednesday.
Pointing out that the state government is seriously thinking on de-reserving forest areas for bringing in development in Arunachal Pradesh, the minister said “we will have to take permission from the Supreme Court for de-reservation of forest areas”.
The state government or the Centre do not have any say on de-reservation of forest areas as the matter lies with the Supreme Court, Natung said.
The apex court in its judgement of November 13, 2000 had said “pending further orders no de-reservation of forests, sanctuaries and national parks shall be affected”.
The minister was responding to a short duration discussion on ‘de-reservation of forests and issue of net present value (NPV) for forest areas by user agencies in the state’ raised by BJP MLA Gabriel Denwang Wangsu.
Even if the apex court allows de-reservation, the state government has to pay compensation to the tune of Rs 17 lakh per hectare for afforestation, as fixed by an expert committee constituted by the Apex Court, Natung said.
“Arunachal Pradesh has three categories of forest – very dense forest, dense forest and open forest – and accordingly net present values have been fixed category wise by the committee,” the minister said. Initiating the discussion, Wangsu said that 25 years have passed since timber operations were banned in the state in 1995, and there has been no tangible effort to convince the Supreme Court of the need to lift the ban for the uplift of tribals, in particular. Noting that all lands in the state are held under community or clan ownership, Wangsu said, if any user agency has to pay NPV once to the government and then again to the villagers who have traditional ownership over such land, it amounts to making payments twice for the same land.
This makes projects unviable and costly and, therefore, investors are running away and not evincing interest to invest in mega projects in the state, the BJP MLA said.
“In spite of all such odds like difficulty in matters of town planning, and lack of development works due to delay in Forest Conservation Act (FCA) clearances … Arunachal Pradesh does not ask for de-reservation of such enumerated disputed notified forests.
“Rather the people seek an amicable solution where the actual virgin remote forest areas on high altitudes, which act as catchment areas and carbon pool for sequestration, could be preserved while the equivalent area of notified forests in plain areas comprising thickly populated towns could be developed by the government as per developmental needs,” Wangsu added.
It is the right time to approach the Centre to apprise the Courts of Justice of the predicament the tribal population as regards habitable, cultivable, plain areas near to cities and towns of having been reserved instead of the lush green pristine forests on higher altitudes, he pointed out. PTI UPL MM MM
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