Rules will be changed to promote timber farming: Minister

New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) The environment ministry will soon change rules to explore opportunities in timber farming, which as of now is largely prohibited, union minister Prakash Javadekar said on Wednesday.

“We are importing timber worth Rs.40,000 crore every year, which also means we are exporting jobs. Why can’t we create those jobs here through tree plantation?” Javadekar said.

The minister was addressing a seminar ‘Transplantation along national highways as a measure for carbon sequestration’ organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

Javadekar also said that the scheme would help Indian farmers, who had stopped harvesting trees due to archaic rules.

“If someone is getting good profit from cultivation of trees, we will allow it. Why can’t a farmer cut their trees, which is also like a crop for them?” the minister said.

Under the present rules, only limited species of tree like eucalyptus and poplar are allowed to be harvested by farmers. While they are seldom allowed to harvest trees like rosewood or sal, contractors manage to get the permits.

The minister said to explore the opportunities in timber farming, the government is planning to lease out the degraded land to private industries involved in timber import.

“About 200 to 500 hectare patches will be put on auction with the propositions of revenue sharing and rent. And anyone who is importing timber today can plant trees and harvest these,” he said.

Urging for a redefinition of the term ‘forest’, the minister said the country has 83 million hectares of forestland, out of which 30 million is degraded and ironically called ‘open forest’.

This ‘open forest’, according to some experts, has the potential to generate revenue.

After the release of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) Bill, every state will be asked to conduct afforestation with geo-mapping and geo-tagging while the ministry will map every tree planted using high-definition remote sensing.

“A forest doesn’t mean once you grow tree you cannot cut it. The scientific management and scientific harvesting allows growth of more plantations and allows harvesting also.”

Javadekar said that under this scheme, the land ownership will remain with the forest department.

“Ten percent under the system will be natural plantation, meaning it will be local species and not to be cut. But 90 percent will be for harvesting, the minister said.

“The guidelines are ready and we will release these soon.”

He added that his ministry is also working to promote bamboo cultivation in India.

The minister said funds to promote afforestation had increased to $7 billion as of today.

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