Changes proposed in Forest Conservation Act

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has proposed an amendment to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, in a bid to liberalise the forest laws.

Status of the amendments

Ministry has sent the proposed amendments to all the state governments, asking for their objections and suggestions within 15 days. The draft proposal will be drawn and placed before Parliament after taking suggestions from states into consideration.

Key facts

  • The amendment puts forward stringent norms for the conservation of forest, by hiking the penal provisions for offenses.
  • Amendment also provides for maintaining “pristine forests”. Non-forestry activity will not be allowed within the pristine forests, under any circumstances.
  • Under the amendment; deemed forests, that have been listed by state governments up to 1996, will continue to be considered as forest land.
  • Land acquired by the Railways and the road ministries before 1980, on which forests came up, will not be considered as forests.
  • Amendment would also reduce the flow from foreign exchange for importing wood & wood derivatives of approximately Rs 45,000 crore by means of encouraging plantations and afforestation.

Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA)

FCA was promulgated in the year 1980. Before a “1996 Supreme Court judgement” in TN Godavarman Thirumulpad versus Union of India & Others case, forest land was defined by “1927 Forest Act”. But in the 1996 case, Supreme court included all areas under the definition of forest that are recorded as ‘forest’ under any government record.

Why this amendment was put forward?

The definition of forest under the forest act was problematic in case of railways and roads. There is land that both the ministries own, but they cannot use it without getting permission from the MoEFCC. These permissions are granted in about 2-4 years, causing delays in several projects.

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