NGT imposes fine of Rs.10,000 per day on Goa for delay in submitting report
NGT had directed the Goa government to complete the process of identifying private lands which meet the criteria of forests by June 31 this year and warned that any delay would entail costs.Updated: Aug 18, 2019 00:41 IST
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a penalty of Rs 10,000 per day on the Goa government for delaying the submission of a report earmarking sufficiently wooded private lands as forests.
The tribunal also threatened to impose a fine of Rs 1.5 crore on the state government if the report is not submitted within three months.
NGT had directed the Goa government to complete the process of identifying private lands which meet the criteria of forests by June 31 this year and warned that any delay would entail costs. When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, the Goa government sought three more months to complete the process.
The NGT bench of justices S P Wangdi, K Ramakrishnan and expert member Nagin Nanda acceded to the request after penalising the Goa government with Rs 10,000 per day of delay. The fine is effective from July 1, the tribunal said.
Private lands that have a tree canopy/crown density of 0.4 and above, are spread over 5 hectares or more of contiguous land or proximity to large forest-area and existence of 75% forest tree species are to be earmarked as private forests.
“The records reveal that the state of Goa has been repeatedly seeking for time to complete the exercise. In view of the above and the fact that further time has been sought for, the direction for payment of penalty in terms of order dated April 03, 2019 shall be operative,” the NGT said.
In December last year, the NGT had directed the state government to complete the work by March 31 this year. However, on account of the Lok Sabha elections, the NGT had agreed to extend the time until June.
In July this year, then Goa forest minister Vijai Sardesai declared that he had rejected a report prepared by a government-appointed committee on grounds that “land owners were not consulted”.
“The final report of the review committee was submitted to the Goa government well in time. However, the then forest minister arbitrarily rejected the report. The costs of rejection of the report are there for all to see,” Claude Alvares, director of the Goa Foundation, an environmental action group, said.
The foundation had approached the National Green Tribunal, against the Goa Government’s delay in notifying private forests in terms of the Supreme Court’s order of 1996. The Supreme Court, in its 1996 order, directed all state governments to set up expert committees to identify natural forests (including degraded forest lands).
In Goa, the government set up what is known as the Sawant committee (named after its chairperson, S M Sawant) to identify private forests in the state. The Sawant committee identified 40 sq km of private forest. Since its work was not completed before its term ended, the Goa government appointed a successor committee headed by H.Y. Karapurkar which identified another 27 sq km of private forests. Pursuant to the work of the two committees, a total of 67 sq km of private forests was identified.
Since then the government had constituted another two committees -- the North Goa committee headed by V T Thomas and the South Goa committee headed by F X Araujo, both retired forest department officials -- to complete the identification of private forests. Then, it appointed a committee to review the work done by the previous four committees. The report of the review committee was also rejected.
First Published: Aug 17, 2019 23:59 IST