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Forest Conservation (Amendment) Act

Forest Conservation (Amendment) Act

The recent amendment to the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 has sparked concerns among experts, warning of potential ecological disasters. This amendment marks a significant overhaul of the act. Thus opening up extensive forest lands for non-forest activities and raising several crucial issues.

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Overview of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980

Following India’s independence, substantial forest lands are now as reserved or protected forests under state forest departments. However, many forested areas remained unclassified, and even non-forested regions were included in the ‘forest’ category, leading to incomplete land surveys.

Key Aspects of the Amendments

The recent amendment not only changes the Act’s name but also alters the definition of forests, which has raised considerable concerns.

Dilution of Forest Conservation Act

The Act’s name was change to the Van (Conservation and Augmentation) Act, with a new preamble emphasizing the need for forests to aid India in achieving carbon neutrality by 2070.

The Act now applies only to land recorded as forests after October 25, 1980, excluding several areas previously covered.

Security-related projects within 100 km of international borders no longer require forest clearances, posing a risk to biodiversity-rich regions like the Northeast.

The Act also permits the use of forestland for defense projects and exempts certain non-forest activities from environmental clearances, disregarding Supreme Court orders.

The amendment’s bypassing of the Parliamentary Committee and the Act’s name change have raised questions about the amendment’s inclusivity and conservation focus.

Limiting the Act’s scope to forestland recorded post-1980 and exempting land converted before 1996 from the Act is seen as contradicting the National Forest Policy and affecting the protection of traditional forest lands.

The amendment could adversely impact biodiversity hotspots, leading to further forest degradation and loss, especially in the Northeast.

The legislation might threaten the rights of indigenous and forest-dwelling communities, impacting their customary land ownership and cultural practices.

Looking Ahead

While the amendment might increase investment in tree cover for carbon sink purposes. It could hinder India’s commitments to biodiversity conservation, indigenous rights, and equitable benefit-sharing under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

A balance between sustainable development and environmental conservation is crucial. Before implementing the amended Act to ensure effective forest conservation and inclusive development.

Read Also: Van Dhan Scheme

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