Punjab levies green cess to convert forest land, Centre already charges fee

Its double taxation for people or agencies wanting a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to transfer forest land into non-forest use in the state, as the cash strapped Punjab government has levied a green cess - terming it as user charges - in addition to fees charged by the Centre. Highly placed sources said that three months back the state government 'quietly' issued a notification, after cabinet approval, levying green cess for a NOC to convert forest land into non-forest land. The charges have been fixed at Rs 5 lakh per hectare.

The state government only processes the case for an No Objection Certificate and sends it to the Centre for final approval. It is Union Forest and Environment Ministry which gives the NOC.

"In the last three months the state government has collected Rs 4.50 crore under this cess and expects to collect somewhere between Rs 15 and Rs 17.50 crore per year,'' said an officer.

Sources said state government already charges Rs 8.50 lakh per hectare on account of Net Present Value of Forest Land and Rs 1.5 lakh per hectare for compulsory aforestation. The money is deposited in Union government account.

The green cess fee of Rs 5 lakh per hectare will be in addition to these Centre fees, Rs 1,000 is also charged as processing fees.

A senior government functionary said, "This green cess is being charged so that money collected under this head will be spent on Greening Punjab Project. Green cover of the state will be increased from 7 per cent to 15 per cent and around Rs 200 crore is required every year to plant trees in the state."

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