The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 (FCA, 1980) is an act by the Parliament of India which ensures conservation of forest and its resources.
It was enacted by the Parliament of India in order to control the ongoing deforestation of the forests of India. It came into force on October 25, 1980 containing five sections.
Amid news reports mentioning future amendments to the FCA 1980 by the Environment Ministry, the act and its provisions become important from the current affairs perspective.
This article will further give details about the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 within the context of the Civil Services Examination.
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Need for Forest Conservation Act, 1980
Forests are an important resource that nature can bestow upon mankind. Therefore, it is the duty of every citizen to preserve the ecosystems of forests. But due to rapid deforestation, the cycle of nature is itself being disrupted. Therefore, the need to bring about a law to ensure the preservation of forest was needed.
One of the first legal drafts to protect forest tracts was the Indian Forest Act, 1865 replaced by a 1927 version of the same act. However, it was more geared towards protecting the commercial interests of the British Empire in India.
The act gave authority to the British to restrict tribal activities by levying taxes on timber and forest services. In other words, it mainly regulated the cutting of timber and flow of raw materials rather than protecting forests.
Upon independence, the President of India enforced the Forest (Conservation) Ordinance in 1980 which was later repealed by virtue of Section 5 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Under the 1980 Act, the restriction was made on the use of the forests for non-forest purposes.
Objectives of the Forest Conservation Act 1980
The aim of the Forest is to preserve the forest ecosystem of India by fulfilling the following objectives:
- Protect the forest along with its flora, fauna and other diverse ecological components while preserving the integrity and territory of the forests.
- Arrest the loss of forest biodiversity
- Prevent forest lands being converted into agricultural, grazing or for any other commercial purposes and intentions.
Features of the Forest Conservation Act 1980
The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 come with the following features:
- The Act restricts the state government and other authorities to take decisions first without permission from the central government.
- The Forest Conservation Act gives complete authority to the Central government to carry out the objectives of the act.
- The Act levies penalties in case of violations of the provisions of FCA.
- The Forest Conservation Act will have an advisory committee which will help the Central government with regard to forest conservation.
Important Sections of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980
Section 1: Title and scope
The law applies to the whole of India except for Jammu and Kashmir. However, when Article 370 was removed, it meant all laws at the central level became applicable. But only 37 laws apply to Jammu and Kashmir at the moment and the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 is not one of them
Section 2: Restriction of forests being used for non-forest purposes.
The section lists restrictions where state authorities cannot make laws regarding forest without the permissions of the Central Government. The emphasis is on ‘non forest purposes’ which means that clearing forest land for the planting of:
- Medicinal plants
Section 3: Advisory committee
As per Section 3 of this Act, the Central government has the power to constitute an advisory committee to advice on matters related to advising the central government on the preservation of forests
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Amendments to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980
In order to balance economic and ecological concerns regarding the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 several amendments were proposed by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in March 2021. Some amendments were as follows:
1.The proposed new ‘section 1A’ created provision which exempts survey and exploration for underground oil and natural gas. In other words, such activities will no longer be classified as a ‘non-forest activity’ and will not require permission from the government,
However, there will be certain conditions laid by the Central Government to carry out such activities, one of which being, survey and drilling activities will not be carried out within the proximity of wildlife sanctuaries.
2. Land acquired for railway networks will not be applicable to FCA and be exempt. Of course, certain guidelines will be laid down by the Central government, which will include planting trees to compensate for the loss of forest lands.
3. Section 2 of the FCA requires government approval for leasing forest lands not owned by the central government for any commercial purposes to private entities.
This clause has been deleted in the proposed amendment. This will enable state governments to lease forest lands without the Central government’s approval.
4. A new explanation to Section 2 proposes to exempt plantation of native species of palm and oil-bearing trees from the definition of “non-forest purpose”.
The government will only impose conditions for compensatory afforestation and payment of other levies and compensations.
5. The proposed amendments to FCA add to the list of non-forestry purposes activities such as building checkpoints, fence boundary, and communication infrastructure.
It may also add ecotourism facilities approved under the Forest Working Plan or Working Scheme approved by the central government.
Frequently asked Questions Related to Forest Conservation Act 1980
What is the main purpose of the Forest Conservation Act 1980?
How can the laws under FCA be carried out?
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