NEW FOREST CONSERVATION RULES
Copyright infringement is not intended
Context: The opposition accused the Union government of diluting the rights of tribal communities through the new forest conservation rules, drawing a rebuttal from the Centre which said these rules simply aim to “streamline” project clearances.
- The new Forest Conservation Rules — notified by the Ministry on June 28 — do not mention the earlier requirement of attaining a gram sabha NOC before diverting forest land for a project.
- They also allow forest rights to be settled after the final approval for forest clearances has been granted by the Centre, a point flagged by critics.
- The settling of forest rights now needs to be carried out by the state government instead of the Centre, as was the case earlier. The state governments will be under even greater pressure from the Centre to accelerate the process of diversion of forest land, critics say.
- The government said that the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, are reformative with an objective to streamline the process of approvals under the Act, and enable the parallel processing under other Acts and Rules including FRA, 2006.
- The Forest Conservation Act of 1980, brought the diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes under the purview of the central government — prior to this the states were solely in charge of clearing projects and diverting forest land.
- The Forest Conservation Act, laid down the process by which forest diversion could be carried out for projects such as mines or dams.
- But the Forest Conservation Act, and the Forest Advisory Committee, which would decide on the cases of forest diversion, would earlier only look at issues of forest health, protection of wildlife species, major harm to biodiversity, the land required for compensatory afforestation in lieu of the forest diversion etc.
- It was only when the Forest Rights Act, 2006 was enacted that the government mandated that the rights of forest dwelling communities need to be recognised, and that they needed to be consulted before the project was sanctioned.
About the news rules:
- It constituted an Advisory Committee, aregional empowered committee at each of the integrated regional offices and a screening committee at State/Union Territory (UT) government-level. The role of the Advisory Committee is restricted to advise or recommend with regards to grant of approval .
- The MoEFCC has directed the constitution of aproject screening committee in each state/UT for an initial review of proposals involving diversion of forest land. The five-member committee will meet at least twice every month and will advise the state governments on projects in a time bound manner.
- Allnon-mining projects between 5-40 hectares must be reviewed within a period of 60 days and all such mining projects must be reviewed within 75 days. For projects involving a larger area, the committee gets some more time — 120 days for non-mining projects involving more than 100 hectares and 150 days for mining projects.
- All linear projects (roads, highways, etc), projects involving forest land up to 40 hectares and those that have projected a use of forest land having a canopy density up to 0.7 shall be examined in the Integrated Regional Office.
- The applicants for diverting forest land in a hilly or mountainous state with green cover covering more than two-thirds of its geographical area, or in a state/UT with forest cover covering more than one-third of its geographical area, will be able to take up compensatory afforestation in other states/UTs where the cover is less than 20%.