It has been argued that the proposed amendments to the Forest conservation act (FCA) will go against the Forest Rights Act (FRA), and may create hurdles for India in achieving its commitments on climate change. Discuss.

The Forest conservation Act, 1980 aimed to increase forest cover of the nation and imposes restrictions on diversion of forest land for non forest use.

Proposed amendments to FCA are:

  • Liberalized acquisition of forest land for development purpose.
  • Forest guards/officials will be given greater powers, including right to use firearms.
  • Arrest of any forest dweller suspected of committing or abetting any crime.
  • Private sector will play an enhanced role in Afforestation.

These amendments lead to the following concerns:

  • Violation of rights granted under Forest Rights Act, e.g. right to land title (for personally cultivated land) that is permanent and inheritable.
  • It affects the ability of tribal communities to conserve and manage forest resources.
  • Threat to life of forest dwellers, if firearms are used.
  • Forest cover may fall. It will affect the Indian Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDC) of creating carbon sink (2.5-3 billion tons of CO2) through Afforestation.

Forest cover is vital for the livelihood, as well as cultural heritage of tribal forest dwellers. It is also linked to international commitments. Thus the proposed amendments should be discussed exhaustively with sufficient public participation.

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