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New Timber Distribution Policy comes up as big relief to the people of Himachal
To concede to the long-pending demand of the people of Himachal Pradesh regarding relaxing the norms for Timber Distribution (T.D), the State government has amended the T.D Policy and simplified the procedure of timber distribution to benefit the stakeholders.

The earlier provisions of the policy were quite complicated and time consuming, which were causing a lot of troubles to the general public. Under the earlier provisions, only few right holders were allotted the T.D which forced the government to formulate new rules in the public interest.

The government invited the objections and suggestions before making the changes in the policy and accordingly amended rules were notified on 26 December, 2013 as Himachal Pradesh Forest (Timber Distribution to the Right Holders) Rules, 2013.

Now, the timber is being granted to the right holders who have their recorded rights in the concerned forest settlement reports for grant of timber for construction, repair and addition or alteration of residential house, cow sheds for bonafide domestic use. As per the new rules, no T.D will be made for ten years to the right holder who has sold trees yielding timber for construction of houses from his private land holding.

In case the right holder has land holding, which qualifies him for grant of timber at more than one place, he can be granted timber at both places but the rates of the trees will be doubled at the second place. The T.D is also not being granted in case where the land owner has purchased the land after obtaining permission from the government under section 118 of the Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972.

Timber is only being granted to the head of the family as per the Panchayat records for the construction, repair and addition or alteration of house and cow shed to be used only for bonafide domestic purposes. The timber is not granted if trees for the purpose are not available silviculturally in the concerned forest however, trees can be given from other forests at 50 percent of market rate of trees, provided right holders of those forests have no objection.

The provision has been made that right holders will continue to exercise rights other than for timber construction, repair and addition alteration as contained in forest settlement reports. It has also been ensured that the T.D rights will be subject to the active cooperation and participation of right holders in forest conservancy.

If a right holder fails to perform his duties for apprehending offenders, extinguishing fire or commits any forest offence, his T.D will be suspended for sixteen years, also in case the right holder will be found to have misutilized the timber under these rules.

Earlier, there were provisions to grant trees in converted form from the depots but now trees are being allotted in unconverted form. For construction of new houses, upto 7 cubic meters standing volume is being granted instead of earlier provision of 3 cubic meters in converted form and for repair, addition or alteration up to 3 cubic meters standing volume is being granted which earlier was 1 cubic meter.  Trees are being given from salvage (fallen, dry standing) trees but if salvage trees are not available, then only silviculturally green trees will be given to the right holders.

The periodicity for grant of T.D has also been enhanced and for construction of new house it will be given once in fifteen years instead of thirty years and for repair work, it will be given once in five years, which earlier used to be given once in fifteen years. The sufferers of natural calamities, fire incidents will not be given timber distribution more than 7 cubic meters, which is the maximum limit.

The timber granted has to be utilised by the right holder within a period of one year, however if he fails to do so, concerned Divisional Forest Officer can grant extension for their use based on the genuineness of the case.

Under the new rules, Rs. 500 per cubic meter standing volume is being charged for Deodar and Rs. 250 per cubic meter standing volume for other species. The right holders suffering from natural calamities will be given trees free of cost and the rates once fixed will be valid for five years.

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