FOREST CONSERVATION ACT 2023 AMENDMENT BILL

BACKGROUND : The primary objective of India’s Forest Conservation Act, which was passed in 1980, is to regulate and restrict the use of forest areas for purposes other than forests. In order to promote sustainable forest management and biodiversity protection, the act mandates prior central government permission for any project or activity that involves using forest land for non-forest uses. This regulatory structure, which ensures the proper use of the nation’s enormous and varied forest resources, reflects India’s determination to finding a balance between environmental preservation and development demands.

INTRODUCTION : The forest conservation act (amendment) bill of 2023 has been proposed/introduced by the minister of environment Mr. Bhupender Yadav in the Lok Sabha. The government is attempting to prevent misunderstandings of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 (FCA), with regard to the recorded forest areas, according to the bill’s Statement of Objects and Reasons. The government contends that because of this erroneous assumption, officials are unable to alter the land use on these registered forest properties or approve any work connected to development or utilities. So by this we can see that these were the major concerns of the government for amending the forest conservation act of 1980’s. Also there’s no act which can be totally right in its own without any amendments and amendments are meant to correct the things which were not seen at the time of making that act.

The amendment of the act is done in the following context or related to the following :

• The management of wood and other forest resources was the goal behind the creation of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

• It mandates that state governments declare any forest area they own to be conserved or protected. All land rights on such property are governed by the Act’s provisions.

• Enacted in 1980, the Forest (Conservation) Act aims to stop extensive deforestation. Any diversion of forest land for uses other than forests requires consent from the central government.

• The demands of industry, agriculture, and the market for forest products are only a few of the factors that have raised pressure on forest land, according to the 2019 Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, and Forests.

• Certain limitations on the use of forest land for non-forest activities are outlined in the 1980 Act. The conditions for adding and removing forest land from the Act’s jurisdiction are altered by the Bill.

This list is expanded by the Bill to include the following activities: (i) zoos and safaris operated by the government or any authority under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 in forest areas other than protected areas; (ii) eco-tourism facilities; (iii) silvi cultural operations (improving forest growth); and (iv) any other purpose designated by the central government. In an attempt to meet the country’s obligations under the NDCs, both domestically and internationally, the Central Government has introduced the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023. This bill aims to accomplish carbon neutrality, eliminate ambiguities and make the Act’s application in various contexts clear, promote plantations on non-forest land, and boost the productivity of the nation’s forests. A proposal has been made to alter the Act.  In addition to encouraging afforestation, the amendment places a strong emphasis on mitigating the effects of climate change and managing forests. Only lands classified under the 1927 Forest Act and those recognised as such after October 25, 1980 are covered by the statute.  Exemptions: Forests within 100 kilometres of the China-Pakistan border for prospective linear projects, as well as forests converted for non-forest usage after December 12, 1996, are exempt.  The establishment of security infrastructure in areas up to 10 hectares, including sensitive zones up to five hectares, is granted to the federal government.  Economic Initiatives: To improve lives based on forests, initiatives like ecotourism, safaris, and environmental entertainment may be put into place.  The reason/motivation behind the amendment is the FCA’s provisions were interpreted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in T.N. Godavarman Thirumulkpad vs. Union of India and Others [(1997) 2 SCC 267] to extend beyond “notified forests” to all areas “recorded” as forests in any official record. This interpretation expanded the FCA’s purview and increased the authority for forest clearance under Section 2. In order to enable the constraints of the Forest Conservation Act to be applied in the event of a diversion, the Bill aims to clarify precisely what a forest is. Additionally, it fundamentally alters how forests are managed. Several state governments, experts, and the ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA) have criticised the bill’s preamble, which claims that “the importance of forests is to be realised to enable achievement of national targets of ‘Net Zero Emission by 2070’ and maintain or enhance the forest carbon stocks through ecologically balanced sustainable development.”

IMPACT : • The impact of it is that it’s assumed that the Governments have chosen to restrict forest areas rather than change the Act to accommodate Adivasi claims, which has made the implementation of the FRA difficult. • Also the new amendment provides autonomy for discretion by not providing precise guidelines, but it does require afforestation elsewhere for each lost parcel of land. • Federal regulations are violated by concurrent list governance practises and financial incentives for afforestation projects that go counter to the ideals of forest governance. • Although internal environmental security is important, external security threats frequently take precedence, which affects states that are vulnerable to natural disasters. CONCLUSION : Complex issues pertaining to environmental security, indigenous rights, and forest governance are brought up by the Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023. Even if it aims to solve important issues, its execution and effects on forest communities need to be carefully considered and discussed in order to guarantee a balanced approach to development and conservation. Although the bill can be fruitful only when the execution and implementation of it will be done rightly and not only this but also the public (common people) have to be conscious and concerned about the forestry rights and acts so that it can really be implemented in real life. The public should increase their awareness about things related to forest and trees. The government should give precise guidelines and should reduce the deforestation and the act and amendments should not only govern it for the present time requirement but for the future needs also. Also the advisasis of that area should be given their right to use the forest for their daily requirements, the government should think that they (adivasis) have been living their from a long time so the change will be very new for them. So all the changes should be made for the welfare of all the citizens of the country including the adivasis. It can now be stated that the new amendment will alter a number of items in the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, depending on upcoming events and government decisions.

By – jaanvi kumari

Jaanvi Kumari
Author: Jaanvi Kumari