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Forest Conservation Rules

 GSPaper-3

Syllabus: Environmental Conservation

 

Source: The Hindu

Context:

Recent changes in Forest Conservation Rules (FCA) 1980

What are the Forest Conservation Rules?

The Forest Conservation Rules deal with the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980. They prescribe the procedure to be followed for forest land to be diverted for non-forestry uses such as road construction, highway development, railway lines, and mining.

Aim of FCA: The broad aims of the Forest Conservation Act are

  • To protect forests and wildlife
  • Dissuade State governments’ attempts to divert forest land for commercial projects
  • Increase the area under forests.

Rules :

  • States to ask central government permission: For forest land beyond five hectares, approval for diverting land must be given by the Central government. This is via a specially constituted committee, called the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).
  • It scrutinises the project and ensures that- the felling of trees and denuding of the local landscape — will be minimal and the said piece of land doesn’t cause damage to wildlife habitat.
  • States to ensure rights under FRA 2006: Once the FAC is convinced and approves (or rejects a proposal), it is forwarded to the concerned State government where the land is located, which then has to ensure that provisions of the Forest Right Act, 2006, a separate Act that protects the rights of forest dwellers and tribals over their land, are complied with.
  • Compensation: The FAC approval also means that the future users of the land must provide compensatory land for afforestation as well as pay the net present value (ranging between ₹10-15 lakh per hectare.)

Changes made:

The latest version of the rules, which consolidates changes to the Act over the years from various amendments and court rulings, was made public in June 2022.

  • Allows Private plantations: The rules make a provision for private parties to cultivate plantations and sell them as land to companies who need to meet compensatory forestation targets.
  • No mention of tribals and forest-dwelling communities whose land would be hived off for developmental work.
    • Prior to the updated rules, state bodies would forward documents to the FAC that would also include information on the status of whether the forest rights of locals in the area were settled.
  • No consent of Gram Sabha needed: The new rules that a project, once approved by the FAC, will then be passed on to the State authorities who will collect the compensatory fund and land, and process it for final approval.
    • Previously consent of gram sabha, or the governing body in villages in the area, was required to give written consent to the diversion of the forest.
  • Defined forest land: Those deemed forests listed by state governments up to 1996. Land which belonged to Railways or other ministries and on which forest has come up will no longer be considered forests.
  • No approval is needed for Strategic Projects: e.g. strategic and security projects of national importance
  • Allows building in Forests: Right to construct structures for bonafide purposes including forest protection measures and residential units (up to an area of 250 sq meters as one-time relaxation).

 

What is the government’s position?

  • Streamline the approval process: The new rule will streamline the process and allow forestation in other forest deficient states.
  • Complying with FRA can be taken by states: Fulfilling and complying with the FRA, 2006 was an independent process and could be undertaken by States “at any stage” of the forest clearance process.

How well has the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) been implemented so far?

  • Poor implementation: A 2019 analysis by the Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment has found that the FAC generally approves land for diversion without examining questions around consent as it relies on the State government to ensure that this is done.

Concern: The rules allowed forest land to be diverted to industry without settling questions about the rights of forest dwellers and tribals who resided on those lands.

 

Insta Links

Draft amendment to Forest Conservation Act:

 

Practice Questions:

Q. Any amendment to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, must be guided by proper and intensive consultation with stakeholders, with constitutionally and legally bound procedures and limitations. Discuss. (250M)

 

Q. Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2011)

  1. 36% of India’s districts are classified as “overexploited” or critical” by the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA).
  2. CGWAwas formed under the Environment (Protection) Act.
  3. India has the largest area under groundwater irrigation in the world.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1 and 3 only

Answer: B

As per CGWA, 71% of the area for groundwater is under the ‘Safe’ category, 10% is semi-critical, 4% is critical and 15% is over-exploited. 2nd and 3rd statement is correct.

Q. With reference to India, consider the following Central Acts (UPSC 2011)

  1. Import and Export (Control) Act, 1947
  2. Mining and Mineral Development (Regulation) Act, 1957
  3. Customs Act, 1962
  4. Indian Forest Act, 1927

Which of the above Acts have relevance to/bearing on the biodiversity conservation in the country?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2, 3 and 4 only

(c) 1, 2, 3 and 4

(d) None of the above Acts

Answer: C

Import and export control act, as well as customs, act deals with the import and export of GMOs or exotic species