Amendments to Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
Disclaimer: Copyright infringement not intended.
- Some amendments were proposed to Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, which have some concerning provisions as per few experts and environmental groups.
- A 31-member joint committee on the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023 was set up to examine the proposed amendments.
- It endorsed the amendment Bill without any change.
- In march 2023, these amendments were only introduced in the Lok Sabha.
- A clause by clause analysis of bill was undertaken.
- Suggestions from various ministries and state government were also taken into consideration.
- Suggestions from various PSUs were also sought.
Amendments Proposed in the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
- The controversial amendment was intending to change a law which protected against the use of India’s forest to non-forestry purposes.
- By this amendment, union government could divert any forest land or land which is not classified as forest for non-forestry purposes after providing compensation.
Some other provisions
- Encouraging practice of cultivating plantations on non-forest land.
- Increasing tree cover on non-forest land over time to achieve net zero emission by 2070.
- Infrastructure creation to support national security would not be restricted.
- Also livelihood opportunities will be created for people living near the forests.
Concerns and controversies
- In 1996 Supreme Court, in Godavarman case, given a verdict that wide tracts of forests should be protected even if these is not classified/recorded as forests. New amendments will dilute this verdict.
- If central government wants to build/create infrastructure, like hydel power project or highway etc., within 100 km of the International Borders or the Line of Control, it will not be required to have forest clearance. This will affect the geographically sensitive area of this region.
- Deemed forest, not recorded as forest, will be open to tourism hence no protection will be provided to such forests.
- Name of act is proposed to be changed to Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam. It is contested that this is in hindi and will exclude vast tracks of population both in South India and also in the North-East.
- Plantation and tree cover may increase however it will not compensate for loss of dense forests.
Stand of Central Government
- These will help in removing ambiguities.
- These new amendments will also clarify the applicability of the Act in various lands – where this law does apply and where it does not.
- Exemptions to forest clearance for construction of Infrastructure are specific in nature and not unavailable to private entities.
- There is more to just forest clearances as there is need for both conservation and augmentation of forests.
- There will be promotion to plantation cultivation and encouragement for more tree cover.
Must Read Article:
Forest (conservation) acts and amendments
Forest Cover in India
By highlighting the controversy surrounding amendments to Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, discuss its implications for Environment and National security. Assess if these are a consensus based amendments. (250 words)