Mamuni Das

New Delhi, July 28

THE Railways plans to intensify its efforts to encourage private participation in commercial plantations on its vacant land.

It proposes to enter into joint ventures with private parties to promote plantation of various commercial trees in about 42,000 hectares available in blocks and strips.

Earlier, the Railways used to lease out land to the Forest Department for plantations. However, it ran into trouble when it became difficult to retrieve the same land for its own developmental purposes.

"The Forest Department wanted the Railways to pay the cost of land over and above the expenditure required to undertake compensatory afforestation," said a senior official.

The Railway Ministry has invited proposals to appoint a consultant for helping the organisation draft an agreement for commercial plantation.

The plantations could include Jatropha curcas and eucalyptus, among others.

During the last two years, the Railways has taken up commercial plantation in joint ventures with private parties at 10 Indian Railway sites.

The joint ventures are for 15 years wherein the private party plants commercial trees and the sale proceeds are shared with the Railways on a 50:50 basis, said the official.

However, it now plans to take up the project on a wide-scale basis.

"There could be two reasons why this has not picked up - one, low awareness, and the other, want of more suitable terms and conditions."

The Railways has already taken up afforestation in about 43,000 hectares.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 29, 2005)
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