Panel for stern steps to protect forests

Companies planning mines, dams and developmental projects on forest land should be given stern punishment if they furnish false information or misrepresented facts while seeking the Environment Ministry’s approval, a high-level panel has proposed.

This can be achieved by introducing a new law on the concept of “utmost good faith” in environment management that needs to be followed by everybody seeking diversion of forest land for their projects.

ure that the applicant is “legally responsible” for his/her statements as he/she would be “severely penalised” for deliberate falsehood, misrepresentation or suppression of facts, says the panel, headed by former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian.

The committee reviewed six green laws, which were considered stumbling blocks in executing development projects and submitted its report to the environment minister Prakash Javadekar.

The report has not been made public but the minister said the government would decide on the panel’s recommendations after an inter-ministerial consultation.

Among several other measures, the panel recommended estimating a project's “environment reconstruction cost” too, which would be dovetailed with the project cost. The reconstruction cost could later be realised as a cess or duty during the lifetime of a project.

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