THE state government is drafting a tree credit legislation. Credits will be assigned to each tree grown in private forests and lands. Buying credits will be a precondition to acquire non-agriculture (NA) certificates,environmental clearances and permission to divert forests or cut trees. Tree-owners will thus get financial returns,leading to conservation of private forests.
Maharashtra Tree Credit Act 1913 will provide incentive to land-owners to protect trees. The government is following the polluter pays principle enunciated by Supreme Court.
Why should owners preserve forests in the absence of incentives? We dont have much of control over private forests, a senior forest department official said.
So the tree credits. The credit will depend on tree girth. Trees will be registered with third-party NGOs under supervision of Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra and the social forestry department. A Tree Credit Authority will issue paper currency to the owner of a tree cover equivalent to his credits, he said.
The government doesnt have money for tree owners,paper currency is a revenue-neutral option. Anyone seeking green clearances or NA certificates for projects such as a housing scheme will have to buy tree credits from owners. Thus,a market for tree credits will be created. The forest department and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board are assessing the size of the tree credit market based on the turnover of red/orange/green industries. It is also assessing the pitfalls.
The system of tree credits could be susceptible to graft. Credits may be issued for non-existent tree covers and paper currency can be faked. Google maps and GPS images will help prevent such practices, the official said.
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