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An Analysis On Forest Conservation Act, 1980 And Its Challenges And Application In India

The forest is one of nature's precious treasures. Forests are crucial to the health of the entire ecosystem since they are a necessary part of natural habitat. Therefore, safeguarding them and maintaining the natural cycle should be our top focus. But it's concerning how quickly our natural woods are disappearing. Because people are so self-centered, they have started cutting down entire trees. To stop this rapid deforestation, the Central Government created the Forest Conservation Act in 1980.

Forests not only provide food, shelter, and timber, but they also aid to maintain ecosystems. Over 40% of the area is covered by woods. Natural resources that can be replenished. However, there has been a significant loss of forest area due to inhuman actions, or perhaps more precisely, human avarice, which is raising questions. It's time to start safeguarding these forests right immediately.

Forests help to stop soil erosion and pollution in addition to giving us a variety of forest products that are essential to our way of life. In conclusion, the absence of forests will cause the collapse of our eco-system, making it critical to have a conversation about them and a top priority. With this objective in mind, the Indian Parliament established the "Forest Conservation Act, 1980."

The act's provisions include that it is intended to address issues that are connected to, incidental to, or necessary for the preservation of forests. The general population, key agencies, and the government, however, appear to lack information regarding forest protection, according to current patterns. It appears that the law only holds true in theory´┐Żnot in actual life. Therefore, it is equally crucial to examine the aforementioned regulation and understand the many obstacles that prohibit its successful implementation.

Statement Of Problems
The knowledge regarding forests and their protection is included in this study paper. The 1980 Forest Conservation Act will be covered in this essay. its background in history. Moreover, why is it significant in India. Additionally, examples involving the preservation of the forest will be covered in this essay.

Objectives Of The Study

  1. To know about forest and its uses to us.
  2. To know about the said Act, i.e., Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
  3. To explore its historical background.
  4. To understand its application in India.

Research Questions

  1. What does the Act talk about?
  2. How is it applied in India?
  3. Why did it become necessary to be followed in India?
  4. What are the problems or challenges in applying it in India?

Research Methodology
This work uses doctrinal research methodology as its research technique. The term "doctrinal methodology" describes research that has been conducted on a legal theory or theories utilising the power of reasoning to examine existing statute provisions and cases.

The study of doctrine is always based on secondary data gathered from authorities. Even while information might come from both primary and secondary sources, doctrinal study never deals with the first-hand knowledge of social reality that is gained via surveys, field research, or any other empirical means.

Scope And Limitations
Forests are one important resource that nature may offer to humans. Therefore, everyone is accountable for safeguarding the forest ecosystems. But the growing deforestation is disrupting the natural cycle. As a result, a statute was needed to guarantee the forest's preservation.

One of the first laws to protect forest areas was the Indian Forest Statute of 1865, which was later superseded by a version of the same law in 1927. However, the defence of the British Empire's commercial interests in India was its principal objective. In order to slow down the fast deforestation brought on by state governments releasing forestlands for agriculture, industry, and other development projects, the central government created the Forest Conservation Act in 1980 with an amendment in 1988. (which was permitted under the Indian Forest Act).

According to the Act, the use of forest land for non-forest purposes, the de-reservation of reserved forests, and logging all require prior federal consent. Due to this stringent regulation, state governments' indiscriminate logging and release of forestland for non-forestry uses have greatly decreased.

Forest And Its Uses
On this planet, trees are our main source of sustenance and a rich supply of resources. We cannot rely on other things like wood, rubber, fruits, etc. for our resources. Forests are the ideal area for us to find all of these resources. Forests are used by humans for more than simply the natural resources they contain. It is a well-known truth that the air we breathe is healthier when there are more woods. These and other reasons make forests vital to our survival and our lifelines.

A big area of land that is covered in trees and other plants is called a forest. According to the climatic circumstances, different places of the world have different types of forests.

A forest's structure is made up of several levels:
  1. Canopy is the outer layer of leaves. It does not permit the sunlight and rain from penetrating into the layers beneath.
  2. Different sizes and types of crowns form horizontal layers in the forest, which is called understorey. This layer has very little sunlight, with mould and algae on the trunks and leaves.
  3. The forest floor is totally covered with dead and decaying organic matter. The root system of the plant which helps water to percolate into the soil is found on the forest floor.

Need Of Forests
The terrestrial ecology cannot exist without forests. They offer a crucial biological framework for the variety of life and cover approximately one-third of the earth's surface. Every year, humans remove millions of acres of forest as the world's population rises. Deforestation poses a severe danger to some of the earth's most priceless ecosystems. We depend on woods for a variety of things.

They provide us with the food and wood that we require, among many other necessities. We still haven't discovered a worthy substitute for these resources; thus, it's challenging to replace all of these items. Additionally, woods contribute to the natural environment that many animals and birds need.

We have an obligation to ensure that all species on Earth are nourished and cared for as both people and as inhabitants of the planet. Why do we need forests? We cannot expect our selfishness to cause someone else's habitat and home to be destroyed. All forms of life on this planet are made simpler by forests.

Sadly, these forests have been heavily exploited over the past few decades, and their size has been declining dangerously quickly. The recognised ideal for India states that these woods should take up 33% of the entire land area, but in reality, our forests and vegetation only occupy 21.67% of the land.

Ways To Conserve Forests
  1. Control the Deforestation: Care should be taken that young trees are not cut as far as possible. Commercial deforestation should also be checked. Practices such as selective cutting and planned harvesting of forests can be employed for optimally extracting the benefits of a forest.
  2. Using Better Farming Practices: Farming practices such as slash and burn agriculture are particularly harmful to the environment and forests. They need to be kept under control.
  3. Protection Against Forest Fires: The forest authority should take adequate precautions against forest fires. The dry leaves and trees must be regularly cleared out, and chemicals to control fire should be kept handy. In case of any such incident, fire extinguishing solutions must be sprayed.
  4. Overgrazing Should be Regulated: Uncontrolled grazing by animals is detrimental to the forest. Forest areas meant only for the purpose of grazing should be demarcated, so that damage is not caused to the remaining areas.
  5. Involving the Local Communities: Forests are homes to many tribal communities. These communities have a very organic relationship with the forests, and most of their livelihoods are also forest dependent. It is therefore imperative to involve their participation in the conservation of forests.

This alarming over-exploitation of our nation's vegetation is the result of a number of factors, including population expansion, industrialization, urbanisation, and rising demand for natural resources like wood, fuel, and feed.

Therefore, in order to protect and maintain our nation's forests and flora, it is essential to establish rules and regulations that should control and govern how they are used. This article will discuss the Indian Forest Act of 1927 and the limitations it imposes on the usage of forests, forest products, and items derived from them.

Forestry management was formerly a part of the State List but was transferred to the Concurrent List by the 76th Amendment. As a result, the woods in our country are under the control of both the Union and the States.

Forest Conservation Act, 1980

The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 is a unique law and regulatory framework that embodies the nation's determination to save its extensive forests, biodiversity, natural heritage, and resources. The Indian Parliament established the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 to protect forests and the riches they contain.

The legislation was passed by the Indian Parliament to stop the country's forests from continuing to be destroyed. On October 25, 1980, it became operative and was separated into five parts.

Only the unavoidable use of forest land for specified industrial reasons is permitted by the statute. It represents the Department's and the Government's steadfast dedication to coordinating forest conservation with the needs of a community's sustainable development, resulting in a better climate, economy, and standard of living.

Historical Background
The first piece of legislation on this topic was the Indian Forest Act of 1865. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 later took its place during the colonial era.

Any law that was passed with the intention of addressing the societal issue for which it was passed. When the Indian Forest Act, 1927, was passed, the same optimism was voiced, but it was only for British interests.

The main focus of the Forest Act of 1927 was wood. It gave the state the authority to regulate the rights of indigenous people to use forests. The Forest Conservation Act of 1927 was composed of 86 parts and 13 chapters.

The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was passed as a result of the increased urgency with which forests needed to be protected in the years after independence. Section 5 of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, which became effective on October 25, 1980, revoked the law.

To help with forest protection and other associated challenges in India, the forest conservation act was passed. Additionally, it addresses concerns that were not covered by the prior Act. Forest exploitation for purposes other than forest management was prohibited under the Forest Act. When people's perceptions evolved and they realised that maintaining harmony between nature and human needs is vital, the Indian parliament established the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 with the preservation of Indian forests and avoiding deforestation

Constitutional Mandate For Forest Conservation

The writers of the Indian Constitution did not foresee the possibility of challenges relating to forest protection when they enacted the document in 1950. This was eventually realised when the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, was passed, adding Article 48A[1] to the section of Directive Principles of State Policy, and Article 51A[2] designating Article 51A as a basic obligation of every Indian citizen.

According to Article 48A, the state must enact legislation to conserve our nation's forests through improving and protecting the environment. Every Indian citizen has a responsibility to preserve and enhance the country's natural environment, especially its forests, as stated in Article 51A(g)[3].

To stop the clearing of India's forests, the Indian Parliament passed the Forest Conservation Act in 1980. The Act was further revised in 1988 after going into effect on October 25th, 1980. After giving up the particular privileges given to Jammu and Kashmir inhabitants, this Act now applies to all of India.

Objectives Of The Act
The forest's trees provide a variety of other functions in addition to giving us oxygen to breathe. They also provide us certain goods we can utilise, like food and wood. The earth's ecology and water cycle are both maintained by forests, which are an essential component of our natural world.

The Act's goals are to uphold ecology and protect our nation's forests. Additionally, this Act aims to boost the growth of our nation's forests by regenerating the forests through tree planting.
  1. To protect the forest, its flora, fauna and other diverse ecological components.
  2. To protect the integrity, territory and individuality of the forests.
  3. To protect the forests and prevent deforestation that will lead to land erosion and subsequent degradation of the land.
  4. To prevent the loss of forest biodiversity.
  5. To prevent the conversion of forests into agricultural lands, or grazing lands, or building of business or residential units.

The main reason for having this Act is to protect and conserve the trees so that they can support the wildlife and save the habitat of many other animals. There are other objects and reasons for having.

The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and those are as follows:
  1. The main reason is to keep an eye on the deforestation and degradation of natural renewable resources i.e., forests.
  2. To provide forest dwellers sources like food, fuel, building material etc at subsidized rates.
  3. To modify the working plans into environmentally friendly plans.
  4. To maintain or to conserve the integrity, territory, and individuality of the forest.
  5. To protect the conservation of forest into agriculture land, grazing land, building of business and residential units.
  6. To protect biodiversity.
  7. To preserve the ecological components and to prevent the depletion of flora and fauna.
  8. To restrict the hunting and trapping of wildlife.
  9. To grant special permission for hunting of wildlife for scientific research.

Salient Features Of The Act
According to Section 2[4] of this Act, it must first have consent from the state government or any other authority from the federal government. However, this Act also grants the government and the forest department the authority to establish reserve forests and the authority to utilise these woods on their own. It also led to the establishment of the protected forest, where locals were subjected to restrictions on resource usage.

Restriction On The De-Reservation Of Forests

This Act's primary goal is to address a limitation on the de-reservation of forests or the use of forest property for non-forest uses. As was previously mentioned, Section 2 of the Act mandates that before issuing any directives regarding the de-reservation of a forest, the use of forest land for non-forest purposes, etc., the state government or any other authority must first obtain permission from the federal government. It also states the following:
  1. That any reserved forest declared under any law for the time being in force in that State or any portion, shall cease to be reserved.
  2. That any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose.
  3. That any forest land or any portion may be cleared of trees which have grown naturally in that land or portion, to use it for re-afforestation.

Here, the term 'non-forest purpose' refers to breaking of the forest land or portion of forest land for the cultivation of tea, coffee, rubber, palm, medicinal plants, or for any purposes other than re-afforestation.

Rule making Power
Under this Act, the Central Government has the authority to enact regulations.[5] It must, however, be maintained in front of the parliament's two houses for 30 days.

Any decision made by one of the authorities under this Act may be challenged, and the National Green Tribunal will hear the case.[6] Any such resentful party may file an appeal.

Section 3A of this Act states that whosoever contravenes or abets any of the provisions of Section 2 of this Act shall be punished with simple imprisonment, which may extend up to fifteen days.

Important Sections
Section 1
The title and scope of the Act are set out in Section 1. It states that, with the exception of Jammu and Kashmir, the act is applicable across all of India. Even after article 370 was repealed, making all Indian laws enforceable in the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, it is generally known that the Forest (Conservation) Act is not one of the laws that are in force there.

Section 2
imposes limitations on state governments and other authorities, prohibiting them from passing laws pertaining to matters such as rescinding the legal designation of a land as a forest given to it, using forest land for non-forest purposes, or leasing any forest land or a portion of it to any non-governmental entity.

This Section restricts the state governments and other authorities to make laws in the following matters without the prior permission of the Central government:
  1. that they cannot deserve any forest land or any portion of it reserved under any law for the time it being enforced in the State or any other part;
  2. that the forest land or any portion of it cannot be used for non-forest purposes;
  3. that they cannot assign any forest land or any portion of it by way of lease to any private person, or anybody or organisation not controlled by the Government of India;
  4. that a forest land or any part of it grown naturally may be cleared for the re-afforestation.
The explanation of this section defines the term "non-forest purposes".

It means cleaning any forest land or its portion for the purpose of:
  • Planting tea, coffee, spices, rubber, palms, oil-bearing, plants, or medicinal plants;
  • Or for any purpose other than afforestation, but it should not include any work related to preservation, evolution and administration of forests and wildlife.
Section 3
It relates to the establishment of an advisory committee that will, if required, approve any matters related to forest conservation or those stated in Section 2 of the Act.

Sections 3A and 3B were introduced in an amendment later in 1988. According to Section 3A, the penalty for breaching the law or helping to facilitate the breaking of these laws is simple imprisonment for a fixed period of time that may be extended by up to 15 days. 3B deals with crimes committed by the government and other authorities.

Section 3B (1) states that whenever an offence under this Act is committed by a government agency, head of the government, an authority, or any other person who was present during the offence.

Section 4 talks about information on the power to create regulations. It specifies that the central government is permitted to implement the act's laws upon the publication of a notice of them in the official gazette. This clause grants the parliament the authority to carry out any rules pertaining to the act.

The repeal of the 1980 Forest (Conservation) Ordinance is covered in Section 5 of the statute.

Amendments To The Forest Conservation Act, 1980

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change suggested numerous amendments to the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 in March 2021 to strike a balance between economic and ecological concerns.

The modifications are as follows:
    1. A clause that exempts subsurface oil and natural gas survey and exploration was incorporated in the proposed new section "1A." Or, to put it another way, such activities won't be regarded as "non-forest activities" and won't need permission from the government. The Central Government will place restrictions on these operations, one of which is that survey and drilling operations will not take place close to animal sanctuaries.
    2. Land acquired for railway networks will be excluded from Forest Conservation Act and will not be subject to it. The Central Government will establish standards, including planting trees to compensate for the loss of forest lands.
    3. Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act requires government clearance before leasing forest lands not owned by the central government to private enterprises for commercial reasons. This provision has been removed from the proposed amendment. It will allow state governments to lease forest lands without the consent of the federal government.
    4. A revised explanation to Section 2 seeks to remove native palm and oil-bearing tree plantation from the definition of "non-forest purpose". The government will impose criteria for compensatory afforestation and payment of additional levies and compensations.

Issues Involved In The Enforcement Of The Act

Several rivers and lakes continue to be overflowing with industrial waste and sewage in spite of numerous environmental laws and Acts. The state of the air is deteriorating daily. Despite the implementation of many laws, there hasn't been any deforestation or animal conservation. To solve these issues, individuals must be reminded of the value of protecting our health, the earth's resources, and the ecosystem as a whole.

The correct execution of environmental regulations is necessary to ameliorate the situation. There are several legislative and administrative measures which have been taken by the government. The enforcement agencies find it difficult to impose regulatory standards on the industries and other polluters. The number of the problems which are faced by the enforcing agencies are as follows:

    1. Lack of manpower in the regulatory agencies as compared with the increasing rate of industries.
    2. Lack of technical knowledge which is required to enforce the regulations.
    3. An increasing rate of corruption.
    4. Lack of financial resources.
    5. Lack of dedicated staff.
    6. Resistance to change.

Even while the natural world is not a complete mess, laws created to address this challenge are frequently followed, management equipment used to tackle environmental problems sometimes fails in its job, and the priority of development has occasionally conflicted with that of the environment. However, this is the collapse of a country that is at war and has hundreds of issues affecting thousands of people.

The struggle for existence, coupled with the depressing situation of the world, is what gives rise to a stronger will. It has been extremely successfully displayed by the administration and, most significantly, the people. You need knowledge and experience, which we appear to be acquiring gradually but steadily.

Drawbacks In The Present Legislation
This Act includes all sorts of forests, including reserve forests, protected forests, and village forests, as was previously indicated. The Act includes a number of measures that aim to reduce deforestation and promote reforestation of non-forested regions. Without prior approval from the Central Government, the state government is not allowed to designate any area of the state as a non-reserve under the National Forest Policy, 1980.

The 1988 amendment to the Act made it illegal for anybody other than the government to lease the forest. This government action contributes to an average 30% increase in forest cover. But each coin has two sides. Similar to that, this Act has certain downsides, including the following:
    1. The Act has transferred the power from the state to the central government which means that the power is centralized at the top.
    2. The Act has also failed to attract public support because it has infringed the human rights of poor native people.
    3. Very less participation of the poor community leads to the ineffectiveness of this Act.
    4. Forest dwellers and tribal communities have rich knowledge about forest resources but their contribution is never acknowledged.
The issues that the enforcement agencies run into include the following:
  1. Regulatory bodies have inadequate staffing levels given how quickly sectors are expanding.
  2. Lack of technical know-how required to apply the requirements.
  3. An increase in corruption.
  4. The available funds are insufficient.
  5. Absence of a loyal workforce.
The Act includes a variety of provisions designed to reduce deforestation and promote reforestation in arid areas. In line with the National Forest Policy of 1980, no area of a state may be designated as a non-reserve without prior permission from the Central Government. The 1988 amendment to the Act made it illegal for anybody other than the government to lease the forest. This government programme increases the quantity of forest cover by an average of 30%. However, even after this, the followings continue to seriously impede the effective implementation of this act:
    1. By shifting authority from the state to the federal government, the legislation concentrated power at the top.
    2. The act also doesn't get public support because it infringes the human rights of disadvantaged native people.
    3. This action is ineffectual due to the extremely low participation of the poor population.
    4. People who live in forests and in tribal communities have considerable knowledge of the resources there, but their effort is never acknowledged.

Public Awareness:

Campaigns to create public awareness are among the most effective ways to bring up environmental concerns in our nation. This is possible with the aid of the press, electronic media, school and college education, adult education, and other additional educational resources. In India, a number of schemes have been developed to save forests. These projects are intended for all of India, yet they only reach a few regions. Lack of commitment from employees or a lack of collaboration from others might be one of the causes.

Reasons For Increasing Public Awareness For Forest Conservation Are:

  • The first reason is to create awareness among the general public about environmental problems.
  • To show people why it is important to conserve forests and to motivate them for the same.
  • To promote understanding among the foresters.
  • To preserve knowledge and culture that is friendly to the environment.

Important Case Laws:
By considering several Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed under Articles 32[7] and 226[8] of the Constitution, the judiciary has also played a significant role in preserving the forests and safeguarding our environment. While considering the PILs, the Supreme Court and the High Courts issued a number of significant rulings on the preservation of the environment and forests.

Tarun Bharat Singh V. Union Of India[9]

In the current case, the Supreme Court was contacted by a nonprofit organisation through a PIL submitted in accordance with Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. The petition was filed to stop the illicit mining that was taking place in the Alwar District's designated area. The state administration had issued hundreds of mining licences despite the fact that the region was protected by the Act. The Court ruled that whenever a region is designated as a protected forest, the Forest (Conservation) Act applies, and as a result, the State government is no longer permitted to conduct any non-forest activity within the reserved region without first obtaining permission from the Central government. The State government's decision to issue or renew a mining licence is because mining is not a forest activity.

State Of Mp V. Krishnadas Tikaram[10]

In this instance, a 20-year mining lease for limestone in the forest region was awarded to the respondents in the year 1966. Following its expiration in 1986, the respondents requested a renewal from the State government. The state legislature approved the decision to extend the lease by another 20 years. This order was cancelled by the Forest Department. The Supreme Court of India heard a challenge to its cancellation. The Court determined that the state cannot issue or renew the licence in accordance with Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 without the Central government's prior permission. As a result, the order cancelation was done correctly.

Krishnadevi Malchand Kamathia V. Bombay Environmental Action[11]

The district collector in this case submitted a motion to start the contempt process against the appellants for disobeying the court's directives. The recently built bund had to be removed in accordance with court orders so that seawater could enter and save the mangrove forests. The injunction made an effort to stop the appellants from engaging in any behaviour that may endanger the mangrove forests. The appellants are authorised to produce salt at the location. The mangrove woods in the region prevent the sun evaporation of saltwater for the purpose of producing salt, according to the Supreme Court.

Because they preserve the ecological balance, forests are crucial to the health of our natural world. However, a startling rate of deforestation across the nation has begun to disrupt the natural order and harm our environment. With the intention of protecting the woods by reducing the rate of deforestation, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 was established.

On October 25, 1980, the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 went into effect. In order to safeguard our nation's woods, this Act was put into effect. Forests play a significant role in the maintenance of the earth's environment and water cycle. This law was put into effect to protect our nation's forests and to preserve the ecological. This act also aims to regenerate the forest by planting tress and forest growth in our country.

According to the Act, the federal government has the authority to enact new laws and amend existing ones. It has imposed limitations on the state government's ability to decide on any topics pertaining to the Act's mention of forests without first obtaining consent from the federal government. Penalties have also been established for individuals who violate any of this Act's provisions. The Act also specifies the legal procedures to be followed when government employees or departments commit crimes. According to this Act, the Central government has the authority to create an advisory body to provide guidance to the government on topics pertaining to forests.

It may be said that as a result of advancements in medical research, the population is continually growing while the death rate has decreased. The birth rate has increased as well, though. In order to preserve our land productive and nutritious for future generations, we must guarantee that the protection of the forest is given the highest care and effort. If deforestation continues at the current rate, many of the common forms of life may soon go extinct. In addition to this, scarce commodities like wood, oxygen, and others will go extremely rapidly. Therefore, "protecting the trees" ought to be a highly popular concept and a marketing idea right now.

  1. The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
  2. Fundamental duties of every citizen of India
  3. To value, protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
  4. Restriction on the de-reservation of forests or use of forest land for non-forest purpose.
  5. Section 4, Forest Conservation Act 1980
  6. Section 2A, Forest Conservation Act 1980
  7. Right to constitutional remedies
  8. Power of High Courts to issue writs
  9. 1993 SCR (3) 21 1993
  10. 1994 SUPPL. (3) SCR 747
  11. (2011) 3 SCC. 363

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