A joint meeting of Agriculture and Water Resources and Development Committees of the Parliament on Sunday directed the Forest Ministry to put in place a legal provision under which infrastructure projects can acquire forest land by paying a certain amount.

    The amount, which will be determined by the ministry, will be used to develop a new forest area equivalent to the deforested area.
    Currently, project developers have to buy an equivalent area of the acquired forest land in surrounding places and hand it over to the government.

    The committees have asked the Forest Ministry to prepare an action plan and issue a directive within a month. “We have asked the ministry to prepare the directive, including detailed action plan as well as scientific mechanism for monetary valuation, within a month,” said Rabindra Adhikari, chairman of the Parliamentary Development Committee.

    The direction from the committees has come at a time when hydropower developers, including Satluj of 900MW Arun III hydropower project, are complaining about difficulties in buying private land plots for the government in return of the acquired forest land.

    Hari Ram Subedi, resident representative of Satluj, welcomed the direction and said it will make their job easier. The project has so far acquired 5.01 hectares of forest land, for which it has already handed over an equivalent area to the government.

    “But we need to acquire an additional 84 hectares of forest land for the dam site.

    So if we have to purchase private land in surrounding areas in return of the acquired forest land, we have to remove the settlements there, which is not possible,” he said.

    “This direction, after coming into effect, will be very helpful for expediting project development.”

    Subedi, however, hoped the cost wouldn’t be too high to increase the cost of the project.

    The direction will also offer relief to Upper Karnali and Budi Gandaki Hydropower projects and Nijgadh International Airport as they are also in the process of acquiring forest land.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post