FORESTS (CONSERVATION) ACT, 1980

Forest (Conservation) Act was enacted for providing a higher level of protection to forests and to regulate diversion of forest lands for non-forestry purposes.

  • Clear Definition: The term “forest land” mentioned in the Act refers to the reserved forest, protected forest, or any area recorded as forest in the government records. The term “tree” will have the same meaning as defined in the Indian Forest Act 1927.
  • Wide coverage: The Act extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
  • Strong Regulation: As per the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 Prior permission of the Central Government is essential for De-reservation/ Diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes.
  • Control deforestation: The Act has made ample provisions to check deforestation and encourage afforestation of non-forest areas.
  • Promote afforestation: This act put certain conditions on the user(s) that need to deposit the required amount to undertake compensatory afforestation for mitigate the negative impact of forest land diversion.

The amended Act (1988) prohibits the lease of forest land to anybody other than the government. It enhances conservation, plantation and increase of forest cover to an average of 30%.

Amended Forest Act, 1992:

  • Infrastructure is allowed: The Act made provision for allowing some non-forest activities in forests without cutting trees with prior approval of the Central government. These activities include the setting of transmission lines, seismic surveys, exploration, drilling, and hydroelectric projects.
  • Total ban deforestation: Wildlife sanctuaries, National Parks, etc. are totally prohibited for any exploration or survey without prior approval of the Central government even if no tree felling is involved.
  • More crops under NFA: Cultivation of tea, coffee, spices, rubber, mulberry for rearing silkworms, and cash crops are included under non-forestry activities and are not allowed in reserve forests.
  • Mining: Mining is a non-forestry activity and prior approval of the Central government is mandatory.
  • Environmental Impact Statement.

Even the cultivation of fruit-bearing trees, oil yielding plants, or medicinal plants in the forest area needs to be first approved to maintain the balance in the ecology of the forest.

Drawbacks of the Forest (Conservation) Act:

  • This Act has just transferred the powers from States to Centres to decide the conversion of reserve forest lands to non-forest areas. Thus, powers have been centralized at the top.
  • The Act has failed to attract public support because it has infringed upon the human rights of the poor native people.
  •   Very marginal participation of the poor community in the Act remains one of the major drawbacks which affects proper execution of the Act.
  • Forest-dwelling tribal communities have a rich knowledge about the forest resources, their values and conservation. But their role and contribution are neither acknowledged nor honoured
  •  Efforts are now being made to make up for gaps in laws by introducing the principles of Public trust or Human rights protection.

 

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