Forests are one of nature’s most valuable resources. Because trees are an essential aspect of the natural habitat, the entire ecosystem is dependent on them. As a result, it should be our primary responsibility to protect them and not disrupt the natural cycle. However, our natural forests are getting down at an alarming rate. Therefore, the need for forest conservation is also getting increased. People have grown so greedy that they have begun to remove entire forests. As a result, the Central Government established the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, to halt the fast deforestation.
What is Forest Conservation Act?
The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 is a one-of-a-kind piece of legislation and regulatory system representing the country’s collective desire to protect its vast forests, biodiversity, natural heritage, and resources. The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 is a law passed by the Indian Parliament to conserve forests and their resources.
The Indian Parliament enacted the act to control the ongoing destruction of India’s forests. It went into effect on October 25, 1980, and got divided into five pieces.
The act only allows for the unavoidable use of forest land for specific production purposes. It symbolises the Government’s and the Department’s strong commitment to aligning forest protection with the demands of a community’s sustainable development, contributing to a healthier climate, health, and economy.
History and Need for The Forest Conservation Act
The Indian Forest Act of 1865 was the first legal document on this subject. During the colonial period, it was later replaced by the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
With the passing of any legislation, it hoped to address the social issue for which it got enacted. The same hope was expressed when the Indian Forest Act, 1927, but it was limited to British interests alone.
The Forest Act of 1927 was primarily concerned with timber. It empowered the state to control tribal people’s rights to use forests. The Forest Conservation Act of 1927 was divided into 13 chapters and included 86 sections.
The government also had the authority to establish restricted forests under this Act. Its goal was to regulate forest products and charge taxes on timber and other forest products, which became a source of money for the government. It never intended to safeguard the country’s woods but instead regulate the cutting of timber and other raw materials utilised in industry.
Following independence, the need to preserve forests became more acute, prompting the passage of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. The statute got repealed by Section 5 of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, which entered into effect on October 25, 1980.
The forest conservation act got enacted to aid in forest protection and other related issues in India. It also addresses issues that the previous Act did not address. The Forest Act made it illegal to exploit forests for reasons other than forest management.
What are the main goals of the Forest Conservation Act 1980?
The main goal of the Forest Conservation Act is to protect ecologically and preserve our country’s forests. It also aims to rejuvenate forests by planting trees and boosting forest growth in our country. The forest conservation act’s goal is:
- To protect the forest, its flora and fauna, and other natural components. To protect the integrity, territory, and uniqueness of the forests.
- To protect forests and avoid deforestation, which causes land erosion and degradation.
- To keep forest biodiversity from becoming extinct.
- To avoid the conversion of forests to agricultural land or grazing fields and the development of commercial or residential structures.
The primary purpose of the Forest Conservation Act is to maintain natural forests while simultaneously meeting the basic needs of individuals who live in or near them. The Forest Conservation Act got designed to raise the living standards of persons near forests and taiga.
What are the Salient Features of the Forest Conservation Act?
The Forest Conservation Act has the following salient features:
- The Act has limited the ability of the state government and other authorities to make decisions in some areas without the previous approval of the central government.
- The entire power to carry out the laws of this Act is in the hands of the Central Government under the Act.
- The Act also establishes penalties for violations of its requirements.
- Under the Act, an advisory committee may get formed for advising the Central government in matters related to forest conservation.
Constitutional Mandate for the conservation of forests
When the Indian Constitution got drafted in 1950, the framers had no notion that future challenges with forest protection would develop. It was later realised when the Constitution (Forty-Second Amendment) Act, 1976, was passed, and Article 48A was added to the section of Directive Principles of State Policy. Article 51A is a fundamental responsibility of every Indian.
As per Article 48A, the state shall enact laws to conserve and improve the environment to protect our forests.
According to Article 51A(g), it is the responsibility of every Indian citizen to maintain and improve the natural environment, particularly our country’s forests.
Important sections under the Forest Conservation Act
The following are the important sections under the forest conservation act for the conservation of forests in India:
Section 1: Title and Scope
Except for Jammu and Kashmir, the law extends across India. However, after Article 370 got repealed, all central-level laws became relevant. However, just 37 laws currently exist in Jammu and Kashmir, and the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 is not one of them.
Section 2: Restriction on the use of forests for non-forest activities
The section describes the conditions under which state authorities do not have the permission to make forest-related laws without the authorisation of the Central Government. The emphasis is on ‘non-forest purposes,’ which means that forest areas must get cleared for the plantation of tea. Rubber, coffee, spices, palms, and oil-producing medicinal plants.
Section 3: Advisory Committee
According to Section 3 of this Act, the Central Government can form an advisory committee to advise on topics about advising the Central Government on forest preservation.
Amendments to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980
To balance economic and ecological concerns about the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change recommended various revisions in March 2021. The following amendments are:
- The proposed new section ‘1A’ included a provision that exempts subterranean oil and natural gas survey and exploration. To put it another way, such actions will no longer be considered as “non-forest activities” and will not require government clearance.
However, some limitations will get imposed by the Central Government for such operations to occur, one of which is that survey and drilling activities will not occur in close vicinity to animal sanctuaries.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The proposed Forest Conservation Act modifications expand the list of non-forestry purposes activities to include the construction of checkpoints, fence boundaries, and communication infrastructure.
It may also include ecotourism facilities that the central government has sanctioned under the Forest Working Plan or Working Scheme.
The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 came into effect to safeguard forests by limiting the rate of deforestation. On October 25, 1980, the Forest Conservation Act went into effect.
Forests are an important aspect of our natural environment because they help maintain the earth’s ecosystem and the water cycle. This Act got enacted to protect the environment and our country’s forests. This Act also intends to rehabilitate forests through tree planting and encourage forest growth in our country.
According to the Act, the central government can adopt new rules or amend current laws. It has made it illegal for the state government to make any decisions concerning the forests named in the Act without first obtaining permission from the central government.
It has also established penalties for individuals who violate any of the provisions of this Act. The forest conservation act also specifies the procedures to be followed when government departments or officials commit offences. The Central Government has the authority to form an advisory government to advise the government on forest-related issues.
When did the Forest Conservation Act come into effect?
25th October 1980
Under which section is the restriction on the use of forests for non-forest activities imposed?
Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act
What was the primary purpose of the Forest Conservation Act?
To maintain natural forests while simultaneously meeting the basic needs of individuals who live in or near them
Under which section does the central government have the authority to form an advisory committee?
Section 3 of the Forest Conservation Act