Key Features of the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023:
- Land under the Purview of the Act: The Bill provides that two types of land will be under the purview of the Act:land declared/notified as a forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or under any other law, orland not covered in the first category but notified as a forest on or after October 25, 1980 in a government record.
- Exempted Categories of Land: The Bill exempts certain types of land from the provisions of the Act, such as forest land along a rail line or a public road maintained by the government.
- Assignment/Leasing of Foreign Land: Under the Act, a state government requires prior approval of the central government to assign forest land to any entity not owned or controlled by government. In the Bill, this condition is extended to all entities, including those owned and controlled by government. It also requires that prior approval be subject to terms and conditions prescribed by the central government.
- Permitted Activities in Forest Land:The Act restricts the de-reservation of forests or use of forest land for non-forest purposes. Such restrictions may be lifted with the prior approval of the central government. Non-forest purposes include use of land for cultivating horticultural crops or for any purpose other than reafforestation.
- The Act specifies certain activities that will be excluded from non-forest purposes, meaning that restrictions on the use of forest land for non-forest purposes will not apply.
Criticism of the Forest Amendment Bill:
- Objections were raised to various aspects of the Bill, including complaints that the proposed amendments “diluted” the Supreme Court’s 1996 judgement in the Godavarman case.
- In the judgement, the Court extended protection to wide tracts of forests, even if they were not recorded as forests. The Environment Ministry refuted this point and argued that provisions in the Bill guarded against such situations.
- The Bill has invited opposition from multiple quarters, including some north-eastern States who objected that vast tracts of forest land would be unilaterally taken away for defence purposes.
Why in news?
- Forest conservation Act 2023, was recently seen in news.