The Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation (Forests Branch), Punjab has, through an Official Gazette notification dated 13th December 2019, brought into force, the Punjab Regulation of Wood Based Industries Rules, 2019 (“Rules”), effective 3rd December, 2019 and is repealing the Punjab Regulation of Saw Mills, Veneer and Plywood Industries Rules, 2006 (“2006 Rules”)
The Government of Punjab had notified the 2006 Rules, for regulating the operation of Saw Mills, Veneer and Plywood Industries in the State of Punjab. However, in 2016, in light of the Supreme Court Writ Petition, titled as T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad -vs- Union of India and Others, the Government of India, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Wood-Based Industries (Establishment and Regulation) Guidelines, 2016 were issued. The Guidelines required States to conform to it and therefore, in conformity with the Guidelines, the Rules were issued.
- Definition: The definition of Wood Based Industry has been new inserted, which now covers, sawmills, plywood units, veneer units, etc. The 2006 Rules defined “Saw Mills, Veneer and Plywood Industries”. ‘Wood Based Industry’ also referred to as WBI means any industry, which processes wood as its raw material (Sawmills/veneer units/ plywood units/ pulp units/ Katha units/charcoal making unit/transit depots/timber depots/furniture or any other type of wood-based units converting round logs).
- Restriction on Location of Wood Based Industries: As per the Rules, no new Wood Based Industry (“WBI”) shall be granted licence within one-kilometre aerial distance from Government Forests notified as Reserve Forests, Protected Areas, Protected Forests or unclassed forests but not the strips along roads, canals, drains, bandhs, rails and escapes notified as Protected Forests. Wood Based Industry can be set up within a Notified Industrial Estate/Park or a municipal area irrespective of the aerial distance as mentioned above. However, already existing units which are duly licensed shall not be required to shift their location.
- Process of obtaining licence: An application in Form-I must be made to the Deputy Commissioner of the concerned District along with a copy to the General Manager, District Industry Centre for No Objection Certificate and a copy to the concerned Divisional Forest Officer, specifying that the applicant wants a licence. The Divisional Forest Officer concerned shall then grant license in Form III for a period of five years after receiving such fee as decided by the State Level Committee within a fortnight. While, under the 2006 Rules, the application format for obtaining the licence and the format in which licence will be obtained remains unchanged, the validity period of the licence has been reduced from 10 years to 5 years.
- Process of Registration of Wood based Industries not requiring licence: In the 2006 Rules, there was no process of registration of Wood based Industries not requiring license. However, in the present Rules, the procedure has been laid down for the registration- An application is to be made in Form-II to the Deputy Commissioner of the concerned district along with a copy to the General Manager, District Industry Centre for No Objection Certificate and a copy to the concerned Divisional Forest Officer.
- Renewal of licence or registration: As per the Rules, an application shall be made in Form I or Form II, as the case may be, at least six months before the expiry of the period for which the licence or registration certificate was granted.
- Maintenance of record: Proper record of the receipt and disposal of timber in Form-IV and V must be maintained which shall be produced for scrutiny and checking of the timber, whenever it is required.
- Annual Return: An Annual Return along with annual green fee must be filled in Form VI by 30th September of every year for the preceding financial year regarding the consumption/usage of wood. This requirement was not present in the 2006 Rules.
- Penalty: The penalty for contravening provisions of the Rules has been hiked. While under the 2006 Rules, the penalty was imprisonment for a term, which may extend to six months or with fine, which may extend to five hundred rupees of with both. Under the present Rules, whoever contravenes any provision of the Rules shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees or both.
Note: The Rules shall not apply to the ordinary operations of domestic carpentry, furniture units, wooden toy and handicraft making units and firewood depots, which do not use or have the facility for sawing, converting, cutting and processing round log. There was no such inapplicability under the 2006 Rules.
Source: Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab