Wednesday, Nov 24, 2004
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By Our Special Correspondent
CHANDIGARH, NOV.23. Prominent environmentalists, experts on agro-forestry and afforestation feel that the national vision of bringing 33 per cent of the geographical area under tree cover can be realised through agro-forestry.
Participating in the three-day National Workshop on Agro-forestry being held here, they also feel that the farm-grown timber and bamboo should be removed from the negative list of exports to promote agro-forestry.
The two working groups also feel that agro-forestry should find an important place in the schemes being funded by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and it should also be included as an important sub-component of the National Employment Guarantee Scheme aimed at providing rural employment.
They have also emphasised the need for making concerted efforts to develop the cultivation practices of appropriate species as there is a paucity of suitable species of trees for various agro-climatic zones, especially the dry arid zones. Efforts should be made to develop planting material with focus on high value and low volume species.
They also feel that cultivation of medicinal plants should be actively promoted under agro-forestry and research and development support should be provided by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education and its regional institutes. The State Forests Departments should set up agro-forestry demonstration centres and bamboo cultivation should be promoted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The farmers should be provided incentives for taking up agro-forestry practices and cooperative units of the farmers should be formed to provide them institutional finance at low rate of interest for growing trees. Such projects should be directly financed by the NABARD. The Government of India should either consider subsidising the cost of seedlings or supply them free of cost to them.
The participants have suggested that there should be organised marketing through the Government and active participation of the agro-forestry based wood industry. There should be separate regulated timber markets for ensuring transparency in transaction and checking exploitation of farmers. Wood should be exempted from sales tax as the finished products are already being taxed. The Government should exempt farm-grown timber from transit and felling permits. The Central Government should review import policy and allow import of only specified hard wood of good quality to discourage flooding of wood of inferior quality. The Government should urge the Central Empowered Committee to liberalise the procedure for setting up of wood based units based on farm grown wood.
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