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Tags Current Affairs

Government proposes to redefine forests

Date: 14 October 2021 Tags: Bills & Laws

Issue

Recently, amendments to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was proposed by the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

 

Background

A feedback from public is being asked within 15 days before any modifications are made to pass the amended act.

 

Details

  • The amendment eases diversion of forests and exempts certain categories of development from the need to take clearance from the Ministry.

  • The current laws have blocked the potential of land. Even private owners of land are unable to utilize their land for other purpose.

 

History of Forest Act

  • The law was amended only once in 1988. In T N Godavarman Thirumulpad v Union of India 1996, the Supreme Court had expanded definition of forests.

  • Previously, the definition of forests only applied to reserve forests and national parks. The new definition automatically applied even to private land.

  • Irrespective of ownership, private lands would automatically become a “deemed forest” without being notified. It even applied to plantations in non-forest land.

 

Reasons for amendments

  • The ambiguity in definition has resulted into lot of resentment and resistance particularly from private individuals and organizations.

  • Ministries such as Railways and Road transport have demanded change in definition for early clearance. This will prevent delay in infrastructure projects.

 

Changes proposed

  • Lands acquired by Railways and Roads Ministries prior to 1980 will be exempted from the Act. These ministries will not need clearance for expansion on these lands.

  • For individuals whose land comes under dictionary meaning of the forest will be allowed construction of structures for bona fide purposes such as homes for one time purpose.

  • Projects of defence near the border will be exempted from the law.  Extended Reach Drilling can be used for oil drilling purposes in forested areas.

 

Concerns

  • Clearing of large areas of forested land in the name of expansion. Large-scale corporate ownerships of projects in forest land could be detrimental.

  • One time exemption for construction on forested land will open forested areas for real-estate projects. This is threatening.

  • The bill does not talk about compensation and rehabilitation of tribals and forest dwellers affected due to projects.

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