The draft, which was released earlier this week, says that large tracts of forest area have degraded in the country, mainly due to biotic pressure and lack of adequate investment. The policy, which is set to replace the 1988 one, looks at levying environmental cess, green tax, carbon tax and so on for certain products and services to facilitate ecologically responsible behaviour, garnering citizen’s contribution and supplementing financial resources. Among other points, the policy also proposes a National and State Board of Forestry to ensure inter-sectoral convergence and conflict resolution.
So far, the budgetary allocation for environment has been less than even one per cent. But, there are Compensatory Afforestation Funds (CAF) of more than Rs 38,000 crore, which lie pending with the government for the Bill to unlock these is yet to be passed. The government’s present stance towards the environment is already being questioned by green activists. In fact, a green report card by the Centre for Science and Environment had even pointed out the gradual shift of forest governance from peoplecentric to a more industry-centric and technocratic approach.
Madhukar Bachulkar, an environmentalist who took up the cause of saving the Western Ghats, stressed, “It is the industry which is bene fitting from this environment, rather than common man. They are promptly giving out industry clearances for sensitive areas, without thoroughly analysing what is going to harm the environment. Then why not levy these additional taxes on the industries instead of us citizens, since they are actually causing environmental degradation?“ The citizens are equally miffed. “This is nothing but loot. Nothing ever boils down to the ground level. We are paying for the Swachh Bharat cess, but a report has suggested that the focus was more on building toilets. There are many places in our city which have become garbage dumps, with the rain washing all the waste our way,“ complained city-based professional Amit Vipat. Fellow corporate Eshan Sarpotdar added, “We already have a huge tax burden. It is the government which is harming the environment by granting land to builders and industries. So, it makes no sense for us to pay up for it.“ Citizen Satyajeet Baji asked, “Instead of adding another tax, how about spreading environmental awareness among government employees and adoptinf eco-friendly infrastructure?“
Source : Mirror