IN COMPLIANCE with the Supreme Court directive, the State Government has initiated measures to close 2,448 sawmills and 105 plywood-veneer industries by September 22.
The apex court’s order for closure follows apprehensions by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) over the genuineness of the Forest Department in renewing licenses to sawmills. The CEC, constituted by the Supreme Court, maintained that in 1997 there had been lapses on part of the Forest Department while renewing licenses to sawmills.
It held that the erring units, which had evaded licensing fees and did not get licenses renewed for years, were included as genuine cases.
As per the CEC, genuine units are those who had applied for license renewal at the time of ban on issuing new licenses for sawmills in 1997 and the ones that had been regularly paying licensing fees.
Therefore, there is a ray of hope for the genuine units. The State Government will be sending its report to the CEC for verification and thereafter the genuine industries would be given permission to run.
Also, 105 plywood-veneer industries, which do not have a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Forest Department, face closure. Up to 1995, the plywood-veneer industries had to obtain NOC from the District Industries Centre (DIC), but the Supreme Court’s March 4, 1997 order had made it mandatory for the units to obtain NOC from the Forest Department.
Some of the industry owners are in a fix as they argue that their units were set up before 1995. Further, the CEC recommended that the new licenses or NOCs should be issued to the plywood-veneer industries only after accessing timber availability.
The district-wise figure of sawmills facing closure are; Lucknow- 7, Bulandshahr- 211, Sultanpur- 141, Barabanki- 128, Muzaffarnagar- 120, Hardoi- 116, Bijnor- 116, Meerut- 93, Rae Bareilly- 92, Jaunpur- 90, Basti 82, and Sitapur- 5. The district-wise figure of plywood-veneer industries facing closure is as follows- Sultanpur 35, Kheri- 38, Lucknow- 8, Najibabad (Bijnor)- 6, and Unnao- 4.
Principal secretary (Forests) V N Garg said the State Government was determined to abide by SC orders and the chief secretary had issued a GO to all the divisional officers in this regard. Forest officers showing lackadaisical attitude to follow the order would be taken to task, he added.