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The Centre recently introduced the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023.

On March 29, 2023, the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023 was presented in Lok Sabha. The bill amends the Forest protection Act of 1980, which governs forest land protection.  The Bill adds and removes certain kinds of land from the Act’s scope.  Furthermore, it broadens the range of activities allowed on forest land.   The following are the Bill’s main features:

Restrictions on forest activities: The Act prohibits the de-reservation of forest land or the use of forest land for non-forest uses. With the previous approval of the central authority, such restrictions may be lifted.  Non-forest purposes include the cultivation of horticultural crops or any other goal other than reafforestation.  The Act specifies which activities are prohibited for non-forest reasons.  These activities include work related to forest and wildlife protection, management, and development, such as establishing check points, fire lines, fencing, and wireless communication. The Bill adds more activities to this list such as: (i) zoos and safaris under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 owned by the government or any authority, in forest areas other than protected areas, (ii) eco-tourism facilities, (iii) silvicultural operations (enhancing forest growth), and (iv) any other purpose specified by the central government.  Furthermore, the central government may define terms and conditions that prevent any survey (for example, exploration activity or seismic survey) from being categorised as non-forest purpose.

Land under the purview of the Act: The Bill specifies two kinds of land that will be covered by the Act:  (i) land declared/notified as a forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or under any other law, or (ii) land not covered in the first category but notified as a forest on or after October 25, 1980 in a government record. Furthermore, the Act will not apply to land converted from forest to non-forest use by anybody authorised by a state/UT on or before December 12, 1996.

Exempted categories of land: The Bill also exempts certain kinds of land from the Act’s provisions, including forest land along a rail line or a government-maintained public road allowing access to habitation or a rail, and roadside amenity up to a maximum size of 0.10 hectare. Forest land that will also be exempted includes: (i) land situated within 100 km along the international borders, Line of Control, or Line of Actual Control, proposed to be used for construction of strategic linear project for national importance or security, (ii) land up to 10 hectares, proposed to be used for constructing security related infrastructure, or (iii) land proposed to be used for constructing defence related project, camp for paramilitary forces, or public utility projects as specified by central government (not exceeding five hectares in a left wing extremism affected area).  These exemptions will be subject to the terms and conditions outlined in instructions issued by the central government.

Assigning of land through a lease or otherwise: The Act requires the state government or any authority to obtain prior permission from the central government before directing the assignment of forest property via lease or otherwise to any organisation (such as a private person, agency, authority, or corporation) that is not owned by the government.  According to the Bill, such assignment may be made to any entity (such as a private individual, agency, authority, or business) subject to the terms and conditions specified by the central government.

Power to issue directions: The Bill also states that the central government may issue instructions to any other authority/organization under or recognised by the centre, state, or union territory for the implementation of the Act.  

Written by- Anagha Anuraj, student of IIM Rohtak, 1st year, BBA LLB.


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