What is the news?
The Union Government has proposed that agencies involved in national security projects and border infrastructure projects will not have to obtain prior forest clearance from the Centre as part of amendments to the existing Forest Conservation Act (FCA). The FCA, which first came in 1980 and was amended in 1988, requires such permission.
What is the draft amendment by the government?
First, to exempt land acquired before 1980 (before the FCA came into effect) by public sector bodies such as the Railways. As of today, a landholding agency (Rail, NHAI, PWD, etc.) is required to take approval under the Act and pay stipulated compensatory levies such as Net Present Value (NPV), Compensatory Afforestation (CA), etc. for use of such land which was originally been acquired for non-forest purposes.
Second, the Environment Ministry also proposes adding a clause to make offences under the modified Act punishable with simple imprisonment for a period which may extend to one year and make it cognisable and non-bailable. They also propose provisions for penal compensation to make good for the damage already done.
Source: This post is based on the article ” Govt. moots changes to Forest Conservation Act ” published in The Hindu on 5th October 2021.