HYDERABAD: The Southern Forest Ministers’ conference has resolved to create a forest development fund by imposing a cess/ tax up to five per cent on the sale/mining of forest produce. This was one of the 35 resolutions adopted at the two-day conference of Forest Ministers from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala that concluded on Sunday.

Addressing the valedictory session, Andhra Pradesh Minister for Forests and Environment S.Vijayarama Raju said the Centre had been requested to give immediate concurrence to the State Government to amend the AP Forest Act for collecting the cess or tax.

Transit permit

The conference resolved that the transit permit should be in English as well as the local language during the inter-State transportation of forest produce. In other resolutions, it decided to address the Centre to consider eco-tourism as a forest activity and earmark 1 per cent of the protected area or 10 hectares of it, whichever is less, for the development of visitor amenities by relaxing the Wildlife Protection Act, to amend the Act to delegate powers to the Chief Wildlife Warden to deal with the capture and translocation of wild animals and to convene a national-level conference of Forest Ministers.

Eco-tourism grid

Speaker of the Legislative Assembly K. R. Suresh Reddy, who was the chief guest, suggested that the Southern States should form an eco-tourism grid. Lauding the setting up of a committee on environment in the A.P. Assembly, Kerala Minister for Forests and Housing Binoy Viswam said that it was a model for other States.

Tamil Nadu Minister for Forests N. Selvaraj called for achieving 33 per cent forest cover and encouraging private individuals to grow trees on the lines of cash crops.