Bill paves way for building in forests

Bill paves way for building in forests

A draft law put to public consultation by the Environment Ministry Wednesday relaxes the restriction on building in public and private forests, even if they are considered protected areas.

The bill, which will be available to the public for eight days, introduces a number of changes that allow the development of forestland.

Under the would-be legislation, hotels would be able to expand into forested areas and new tourism developments such as golf courses and spas could be constructed. This builds on a 2011 amendment that allowed 10 percent of forestland to be used for similar purposes.

The bill forbids the installation of photovoltaic panels in forests but allows areas to be used for recycling building material and creating dairy or livestock farms. The legislation also benefits mining companies, which no longer have to pay for the use of the entire area they mine but only the surface area affected.

It has been common practice for governments to declare reforestations in forested areas that have been damaged by wildfires but the bill allows this process to be suspended, therefore allowing construction to take place, if authorities deem that the aim of the reforestation has been achieved.

Similarly, reforestation will not take place after a wildfire if approval has been given earlier for construction to take place in the forested area in question.

After public consultation, the bill will be put to a vote in Parliament, where the coalition holds 155 of the 300 seats.

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