08 October 2005

SC defines ‘green’ cost for projects built on forest land

2005-09-29 - India
Source: Indian Express
For the first time, the apex court has put in place a system to evaluate—and collect—the environmental cost of any project in forest land. Until now, the cost included just that of trees felled. But in a 70-page judgment today, the Supreme Court has ordered that projects be charged Net Present Value (NPV): value of benefits from a forest, including oxygen production, biodiversity, carbon absorption and flood and drought control.
The only projects exempted will be government hospitals, dispensaries, non commercial government ventures like schools, water tanks, sewers.
The NPV collected will go to a national corpus that will audited by the CAG and used for preserving forests, not necessarily in the state where the project is coming up. This is over and above the current system of compensatory afforestation—paying for trees cut and getting new ones planted.
NPV is already being charged by four states Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Haryana. More than Rs 300 crore has been collected so far and is lying with the courts with no clarity on what to do with the money.
These states calculated NPV at Rs 5.80 lakh per hectare to Rs 9.20 lakh. New rates will now depend on the type of forest land, location, density of the forest, distance from urban area.
The plea that public sector projects of NHPC or Powergrid be exempted has been turned down by a three-member bench headed by Justice Y K Sabharwal who delivered the judgment after a continuous three-day hearing on an omnibus forest case.
A three-member expert committee will decide on the NPV, one of the members will be Kanchan Chopra, forest economist from the Institute of Economic Growth. The team has one month to identify and define parameters on the basis of which value can be ascribed to different categories of forest land in different bio-geographical zones.

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