Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

Recently, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav introduced the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023, in the Lok Sabha. This amendment bill seeks to clarify India’s forest conservation law and exempt certain categories of land from its ambit to fast-track security-related projects of national importance.

Understanding the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 is a forest conservation law in India that regulates diversion of forestland for non-forestry purposes like mining, industrial projects, and other developmental activities. The Act was passed with the aim of conserving forests and wildlife by regulating activities such as timber felling, grazing, and cultivation on forest lands.

India’s Aim to Increase Forest Cover

The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023 aims to broaden the horizons of the Act. This is in line with India’s efforts towards increasing green cover for the creation of a carbon sink of additional 2.5-3.0 billion tons of CO2 equivalent by the end of this decade. The proposed amendments seek to add more activities for promoting conservation of forest and wildlife.

Proposed Exemptions and Preamble

The 2023 Amendment Bill exempts certain categories of lands from the purview of the Act to hasten the execution of projects that are of national importance. It also provides access to small establishments, habitations on the side of public roads and railways, and encourage plantation on non-forest land. Additionally, it seeks to insert a preamble to the Act to encompass the country’s rich tradition of preserving forests, their biodiversity, and tackling climate change challenges within its ambit.

Planting Trees to Compensate for Felling of Trees

The Bill provides for terms and conditions while considering the proposed relaxations under the Act. These include the condition of planting trees to compensate for felling of trees undertaken on the lands. This ensures that the felling of trees is compensated by planting an equal number of trees to maintain the balance in the ecosystem.

Uniformity in Applicability

The amendments bring about uniformity in the applicability of the Act’s provisions in respect of public and private entities. This would ensure that the provisions of the Act apply to all entities involved in forest and wildlife conservation, regardless of whether they are private or government-owned.

Empowering the Central Government

The Amendment Bill empowers the central government to specify the terms and conditions subject to which any survey, such as, reconnaissance, prospecting, investigation or exploration including seismic survey, shall not be treated as non-forest purpose. This move would ensure that surveys are conducted in a manner that is not detrimental to the environment.




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