Forest Conservation Rules 2022 - Committees, Forest Acts, EPA [UPSC GS 3]

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has notified the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022. The primary objective of the policy is to safeguard the territory and integrity of the forests and maintain an ecological balance for every flora and fauna to sustain. 

The article is important for UPSC Mains GS Paper-2 and GS Paper-3

Candidates can check out similar articles on Environment from the following links:

Forest Conservation Rules 2022 – Committees and Functions

Constitution of a project screening committee: The Ministry has directed the formation of a project screening committee in every state or Union Territory for an initial review of proposals involving the diversion of forest land.

Objectives of the screening committee:

  • The committee will meet at least twice every month and advise the state governments on projects in a time-bound manner.
  • The committee will examine every proposal received from state governments or administrations of Union Territories (UTs) without going into the merit of the proposal.
  • The committee will review whether the proposal is complete in all aspects and its location concerning restricted areas or categories. 
  • It prescribes a time frame for the review of different kinds of projects. All non-mining projects must be reviewed within a period of 60 days, and all such mining projects must be reviewed within 75 days.
  • In the case of projects involving a larger area, the committee gets some more time;120 days for non-mining projects involving more than 100 hectares and 150 days for mining projects. 
  • The project screening committee will be headed by a nodal officer but will have a district collector, and conservator of forests who will advise on projects and will have to do the initial screening to save time. 

Constitution of Advisory Committee: 

  • The role of the Advisory Committee is to advise or recommend matters related to the conservation of forests referred to it by the Central Government and with regard to grant of approval under relevant sections of different proposals.
  • It consists of 6 members, including the Chairman.

Constitution of Regional Empowered Committee:

  • It also provides for the establishment of a Regional Empowered Committee at each of the Integrated Regional Offices.
  • An important change introduced in the new rules is that all linear projects like roads and highways, projects involving forest land up to 40 hectares, and those that have projected use of forest land having a canopy density up to 0.7, irrespective of their extent for survey shall be examined in the Integrated Regional Office. 
  • The process has been decentralized by assigning the responsibility of all linear and hydel projects to the integrated regional offices, and all mining projects will be under the central office.

Forest Conservation Rules 2022 and Compensatory Afforestation

The new rules stated that those applying for diverting forest land in a hilly or mountainous state with a green cover of over two-thirds of its geographical area or a state/UT with a forest cover of over one-third of the geographical area would be able to take up compensatory afforestation in other states/UTs where the cover is less than 20%.

What is Compensatory Afforestation?

Compensatory Afforestation means that when the forest land is employed for non-forest purposes like industrial activities, construction or mining, the company has to provide alternate land as compensation for the occupied one. The area of forest land lost is compensated with an equal area of non-forest land. If non-forest land is not available, degraded forest land that is double the area of cleared forest land has to be afforested to recompense. Improper implementation of CA had led to the setting up of the Compensatory Afforestation Planning and Management Authority [CAMPA].

Read more about the objectives of CAMPA, CAMPA Fund, and CAMPA Law for UPSC from the linked article.

  • Compliance with the forest rights act was mandatory before the Centre granted stage II forest clearance to any project. However, that has also changed.
  •  The centre has given the responsibility of settling forest rights and diversion of forest land to states.

Changes rules of penalty: 

MoEFCC has proposed a replacement of imprisonment as a penalty for less serious offences. The monetary penalty has replaced imprisonment. However, serious offences related to the Environment Protection Act like grievous injury or loss of life will be covered under the provision of the Indian Penal Code.

If you want to learn about the Indian Penal Code (IPC) from the UPSC Exam perspective, please check the linked article. 

EPA Provisions

The current EPA provisions will have the same penalties under the single-use plastic ban. Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act,1986 states that “A violator of these provisions can be punished with imprisonment up to five years or a fine up to Rs. 1,00,000 or both”. In case the failure or contravention continues, an additional fine may extend to five thousand rupees for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction for the first such failure or contravention. This amount will be remitted to EPF. If the violation extends beyond one year, the offender can be imprisoned for a term that may extend to seven years.

Environment Protection Fund

MoEFCC has also proposed the creation of an Environment Protection Fund and the amount collected as a penalty will be remitted into this account.

Environmental Acts and Policies

Let us understand a few acts and policies from the UPSC point of view:

1. Environment Protection Act, 1986: 

    • Known as the Umbrella Act, it authorizes the Central Government to carry out necessary measures for environmental protection. It includes improving the quality of the environment, preventing pollution, and prohibiting or restricting the operation of industrial facilities.
    • It was enacted under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution.It has 26 sections and 4 chapters.
    • Article 48A of the Constitution states that States shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
    • Article 51A clearly mentions that every citizen is obliged to protect the environment.

Read about Environment Protection Act 1986 in the linked article.

2. National Afforestation Programme

    • The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change has implemented the National Afforestation Programme with the intent to revamp the degraded forests through people’s participation. 
    • Launched in 2000, it focuses on the livelihood of the forest fringe communities.
    • The scheme is implemented through a three-tier setup comprising State Forest Development Agency (SFDA), Forest Development Agency (FDA), and Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMC).

3. India Forest Policy 1952

    • It aimed at bringing one-third of the total land area, with 65% in hilly areas and 25% in plains, under the forest cover and detailed guidelines for the protection of wildlife and forests.
    • National Forest Policy introduced a functional qualification for forests.
      • Protection Forests: They are preserved to withstand extreme climate and natural hazards like avalanches, landslides, erosion, and flooding. They indeed act as a protective factor on the soil, water, and climatic conditions of a locality.
      • National Forests: They are conserved for defence, communication, industry, and other matters of national importance. They constitute a share of India’s strength and wealth.
      • Village Forests: They were known as “fuel forests” and catered to the needs of the village population. Firewood, Cow Dung for manure, timber, and other local requirements are met by Village Forests. 
      • Treelands: They are referred to as trees outside the forest cover. They helped to create consciousness on the importance of growing trees on farmlands, community lands, and roadsides.

Read about the National Forest Policy 1988 from the linked article.

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