Govt, politicos bat for private forest owners

With massive depletion of wealth, in terms of land value, expected as a fallout of the National Green Tribunal order demarcating Goa's private forests, some politicians have begun batting for the land owners facing the brunt of the financial catastrophe.

| SEPTEMBER 06, 2020, 09:27 AM IST
Govt, politicos bat for private forest owners


First off the blocks was South Goa MP, Francisco Sardinha, who as chief minister of Goa in 1999-2000, shaped the course of the government's more than two-decade old process to identify private forests. 

Sardinha has mooted acquisition of the land by the government and to compensate the land owners so that the onus of preserving the forests is shared by all.

"People seem to fall in love with trees that others have grown. The land owners are affected as they cannot monetize their holdings due to the NGT order. The government should acquire these lands," was the South Goa MP's reaction to the NGT order.

The State government led by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has been cautious in its reaction to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) judgement ordering demarcating 46.11 square kilometers of privately held land as forests.

For the record, Sawant has said the judgement could be challenged before the appropriate court only in parts and that too with regard to specific portions of the land demarcated as private forest. He none-the-less said a decision will be taken only after the judgement is thoroughly studied by the Advocate General Devidas Pangam and his legal team besides the Forest Department.

Another option that could be explored are compensatory regulations, something proposed by former deputy chief minister, Vijai Sardesai, when he held the Town and Country Planning portfolio. 

No sooner Sardesai took charge of the TCP portfolio in March 2017, he had announced the government's intention to introduce by legislation the 'Transfer of Development Rights' policy by which land and property owners affected by restrictive laws are compensated with tangible rights which they can transfer to other properties either owned by them or by others.

A year later, Sardesai had even tabled in the Goa legislative assembly a bill to amend the Town and Country Planning Act to create transferrable development rights. The bill which sought to amend section 2 of the TCP Act, was set to introduce new definitions for 'accomodation reservation', Transferrable Development Rights and Transferrable Development Rights for Posterity.

The bill also sought to introduce new sections to provide for acquisition of land by granting TDR to the land owners instead of cash compensation. But weeks after he tabled the bill, political development led to Sardesai being ejected from the Cabinet and the proposal has been pushed to the back-burner and virtually aborted.

The August 18 judgement of the NGT, however, could bring the TDR policy back on the table and used to cushion the losses of the private forest owners.

Sardesai believes so, but does not expect the current dispensation led by Sawant to revive the aborted TDR policy.

Sardesai said: "I don't expect this dispensation to pursue such transparent policies. In the House, we have raised how a certain tract of land in Mandur was sought to be surreptitiously excluded from areas already identified as forest."

Sardesai also expressed surprise how the government did not succeed in defending the Cabinet decision which rejected the "flawed" 'Sharma Report' before the NGT.

With massive depletion of wealth, in terms of land value, expected as a fallout of the National Green Tribunal order demarcating Goa's private forests, some politicians have begun batting for the land owners facing the brunt of the financial catastrophe.

ACQUISITION OF LAND MOOTED

First off the blocks was South Goa MP, Francisco Sardinha, who as chief minister of Goa in 1999-2000, shaped the course of the government's more than two-decade old process to identify private forests. 

Sardinha has mooted acquisition of the land by the government and to compensate the land owners so that the onus of preserving the forests is shared by all.

"People seem to fall in love with trees that others have grown. The land owners are affected as they cannot monetize their holdings due to the NGT order. The government should acquire these lands," was the South Goa MP's reaction to the NGT order.

TO CHALLENGE OR NOT

The State government led by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has been cautious in its reaction to the 

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