File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Analysis Of Forest Conservation On Act, And The Recent Proposed Amendments

The recent amendments proposed by Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 is set to bring about significant changes in the governance of forest in India.

This act aims to liberalise forest laws so that natural resources in the forest can be explored and exploited. This is done through facilitating private plantations for harvest action and exploration of oil and natural gas from beneath the forest land by drilling holes outside the forest area.

The proposal also aims to empower the state government to lease forest land to private individuals and corporations. If the proposed amendments come into force then it will dilute the provisions set out Supreme Court in 1996, TN Godavarman Thirumulpad versus Union of India and Others case. This case defined forest as all those areas that were recorded as a forest on in area irrespective of ownership, recognition and classification.

Need for this Amendment
The definition of a forest has left the identification of forest arbitrary and subjective to a certain extent and this caused a lot of resentment among private individuals and organisations. This is primarily because, given the definition of a forest, an individual will be prohibited from carrying out any non-forestry activity in his land if considered a forest. The implication can be seen in the rise in the tendency to keep private lands void of any vegetation even if there is scope for one.

Secondly, due to the considerable changes in ecological, social and environmental regimes in the country in the last few years, there has been a change in the ecological and economic needs. The present circumstances have specially bought about the need for the integration of conversation and development into this act. This has been one of the driving forces behind the amendments.

Thirdly, to achieve India's Climate target or National Determined Contribution it was essential to practice plantation at all areas outside government forest.

Draft Amendments
The proposal aims to grant exemption to railways, roads, tree plantations, oil exploration, wildlife tourism and 'strategic' projects in forests. Secondly, the proposal aims to empower the state government The amendment also seeks to complete the process of forest identification in a time-bound manner. This proposal also seeks to create a "no-go" area where the specific project would not be allowed.

Highlights of this Proposal
The main highlights of this proposal are:
  1. Defining forest:
    The area that was deemed to be forest in 1996 will continue to be forest however the land acquired by the railway before 1980 will no longer be considered to be a forest.
  2. Strategic Project:
    The forest land needed for strategic and security projects of national approval should be exempted from the requirement of needing prior approval from the central government. This will enable the government to complete the strategic project on time.
  3. Oil and Natural Gas extraction:
    This will facilitate new technology such as Extended Reach Drilling (ERD) to extract oil, natural gases, and other resources of the forest from outside the forest area by drilling holes. This is an environmentally friendly method of extraction of resources and should be kept
  4. Building in Forest:
    This proposal allows the private owners of land whose land is deemed to be forest to construct structure bonafide purposes including building residential units and forest protection measures with up to one-time relaxation of 250sq meters. This proposal is intended to ease the grievance of those individuals whose property fall within the specific definition of forest.
  5. A lease on forest land:
    Section 2(iii) of this act requires the prior approval of the central government before issuing a lease of land to a private individual/corporation not owned or controlled by the government.
  6. "No-go" areas:
    The proposal inserts section 2B which allows the central government to delineate the certain area where non-forest areas will be prohibited for a fixed time. The delineation would be based on pre-fixed criteria

Exemptions under this Act
  1. The land that was acquired by the railways before 25th October, 1980 or the day on which the Forest Conservation Act was passed would be exempted from seeking a forest clearance. This is included in section 1A of the proposed amendment.
  2. However, the exception under this section is subjected to the terms and conditions that the central government will compensate for the lost forest coverage by practising afforestation in different areas.

  1. Section 2 proposes to exempt plantation on palm and oil-bearing trees from the definition of "non-forest"
  2. However, since the Forest conversation act applies to the conversion of forest land to "non-forest" land, this would mean that anyone who wants to clear land for the plantation of such trees would not require the prior approval of the government

  1. The Act classifies activities related to wild preservation as non-forestry purposes- which implies that building checkpoints, communication infrastructure, fencing, boundary, etc do not need a forest clearance
  2. The proposed amendments claim to add to the list "forest and wildlife training infrastructure" and the "establishment of zoos and safaris" which are governed under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

What are the issue and concerns?
The main concern regarding the proposal centres around the dilution of the definition of forest as proposed by the Supreme Court in the landmark Godavarman case. Although this case was initially started as a petition to curb the felling of the trees in Nilgiri hills, it ended up expanding the coverage of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

The proposed amendment allegedly seek to reduce the scope of the judgement by only limiting it to such land that has been:
  • Declared as forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927
  • Recorded as a forest land before 25th October 1980. However, there is the exemption for land that has been changed from forest to non-forest purpose before 12th December 1996
  • Identified as "forest" by an expert committee set up by the state government within one year of the proposal of such amendment

Forest Conservation Act, 1980
Forest Conservation Act, 1980 is the legislation that regulates deforestation in our country. This legislation prohibits the felling of any forest area for "non-forest" use without prior permission of the central government. The clearance process involves seeking permission from local forest authorities or wildlife authorities. Under this act, the centre is eligible to reject a request or allow it with legally binding conditions.

How did this Act overrule the SC judgement?
The Supreme court in the Godavarman Case 1996 held that forest would not only cover the statutorily recognised forest under this act. It would recognise any area recorded in government record regardless of the ownership. The restriction in the Forest Conservation Act would be applicable be to both de facto and dejure.

The proposed amendments purposely seek to reduce the scope of this judgement by limiting the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act, in the following ways-

Declared or notified as forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927

Recorded as forest land prior to 25th October, with exception to such land if the land as been changed to non-forest.

Identified as "forest" by state government expert committee upto one year from the date of amendment.

The judgement interpreted the act as it stood then.This addition of specific judgement further limited the judgement. De jure forest are therefore excluded from the purview of the Forest Conservation Act

According to India State Report, 2019 the total forest cover in India is about 24.56%percent of the total geographical area of the country. According to the National Forest Policy of India, 1988 India envisages a goal to cover 33% of th geographical area under forest cover. The 42nd amendment in 1976, included article 48-A which vest the responsibility upon the state to look after the natural resources of the country under the directive principle of state policy.

Article 51-G makes it a fundamental duty of the citizen to take care of his/her surrounding environment. This amendment also transferred the Protection of Forest and wildlife from concurrent list to state list

The proposed legislation aims to improve the forest cover of India and use the natural resources the forest has to offer while not trying to practice deforestation. The amendment takes a problematic turn when private individuals are considered. To avoid such a deadlock the government needs to come into an agreement with all the stakeholders and reach a consensus.

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly