LS passes Forest Conservation (Amendment) Bill
The Forest Conservation (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday amidst commotion, with no alterations from the original version tabled on March 29. To amend the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, the contentious Bill was submitted.
What is the Forest Conservation Act of 1980?
- Objective: The primary goals of the Act are to solve issues about the management and protection of Indian forests, as well as to ensure their conservation. It seeks to prevent deforestation and guarantee the wise exploitation of forest resources.
- Applicability: The Act applies to all of India, including all of its states and union territories. Both publicly owned and privately owned forest land are covered.
- Limitations on the Use of Forest Land: The Act forbids the de-reservation of forest land for non-forest purposes without the Central Government’s prior approval. It tries to stop the arbitrary rerouting of forest areas for mining operations, industrial ventures, and other forms of development.
- Approval Mechanism: A proposal must be submitted to the Central Government for permission if a state government wishes to use forest land for non-forest activities. Details on the project, its possible effects on the environment, and the steps taken to lessen the negative effects should all be included in the proposal.
- Advisory Committee: The Act creates a National Advisory Committee to assess the suggestions made by state governments. The committee’s main duty is to evaluate the ecological and environmental elements of the proposed projects. It is composed of professionals from several relevant sectors.
- Compensatory afforestation: The idea of compensatory afforestation is one of the Act’s key provisions. To make up for the loss of forest cover, it is said that whenever forest land is diverted for non-forest uses, an equivalent area of degraded or non-forest land should be planted with trees. This makes sure that, despite the use of forest land, the ecological balance is preserved.
- Rehabilitation of Affected Communities: The Act places a strong emphasis on rehabilitating any communities that may be negatively impacted by the use of forest property for other purposes. The state administration must address the worries and well-being of the locals who depend on the forests for their survival.
What are the amendments bought by the Bill to The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023?
- Broadening the scope of the Act: The Bill suggests adding a Preamble to the Act to increase its breadth and represent the potential of its provisions. The Preamble, which is the first section of the Act, outlines the goals and intentions of the Act.
- Renaming the Act: The Act shall now go by the name “Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam, 1980.” The Act’s emphasis on the preservation and development of forests is intended to be highlighted by the renaming.
- Applicability clarification: To clear up any confusion, the Bill aims to specify where the Act is applicable in different types of lands. The following types of lands are covered under the Act:
- Forest land is any area that has been formally declared as a forest.
- Revenue forest land: Land that is listed in official documents as a forest.
- Lands like forests: Based on their definition in the dictionary, these are places that resemble forests.
- Exemptions: The Bill suggests a few exceptions to the Act’s regulations for particular initiatives and activities. The exceptions consist of:
- Projects that are within 100 km of international boundaries, the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and the Line of Control (LoC) will not be subject to this requirement.
- Forest land for connectivity: Forest land up to 0.10 hectares in size can be used to connect homes and businesses along roads and railways.
- Infrastructure for security-related projects is permitted to be built on up to 10 hectares of forest property.
- Areas impacted by left-wing extremism (LWE): Public utility projects are permitted on up to 5 hectares of forest land in LWE-affected areas.
What are the other activities incorporated in the bill?
The Bill incorporates new initiatives for the preservation of forests as forestry activities. These actions are currently regarded as a component of forest preservation and development initiatives. These additional activities have been added:
- Building the infrastructure that frontline forest staff will need to manage and safeguard forests is item number one.
- Ecotourism: Planned and authorised tourist activities that support the conservation of wildlife and the management of forests.
- Creating zoos and safari facilities outside of protected areas is permitted with the Central Zoo Authority’s permission.
The proposed changes are meant to address the difficulties and ambiguities that have arisen since the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 was passed. The amendments aim to strengthen forest conservation efforts while also facilitating important development projects and livelihood opportunities for local communities. These include granting exemptions for specific projects, encouraging afforestation on non-forest lands, and broadening the scope of forestry activities.