Centre proposes changes in forest conservation law

The environment and forest ministry has proposed major changes in the Forest Conservation Act to encourage plantation on private land and exempt the owners - both private and government entities - to seek prior permission from the Centre to reap benefits from such plantations.

The amendments proposed by the ministry say that no such prior permission would also be needed from the Centre for strategic and security projects and states can grant such permissions to avoid any delay.

The proposal for the Cabinet circulated by the MoEFCC has also said rail and road owning agencies should not require fresh clearance for stretches which had been acquired before1980 (the year the FC Act came in to force) for the projects.

The ministry has circulated the proposed FC Amendment Act, 2021 for inter-ministerial consultation highlighting how a Supreme Court judgement of December 12, 1996 has necessitated these changes. It has said till this order was passed, which made it mandatory to seek prior central approval for non-forest use of all “forest” land irrespective of their classification and ownership, the state, UT and central governments used to apply the Act only to the forests notified under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or any other local law and to forests that were under the management of forest departments.

It has said there has been “declining tendency” of undertaking plantations in non-forest land by both government as well as private entities on non-forest land owing to apprehensions that they may face “hindrance in reaping benefits from such plantations due to the applicability of the Act” since the apex court order. The ministry has proposed that clarity is needed to prescribe the extent of applicability of the FC Act on such lands that are not notified as forest but whose land use was changed prior to the 1996 SC order.

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