Why in News?
- The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has recently released the draft National Forest Policy, 2018.
- The central government has made or proposed significant changes to various forest and environmental laws in the recent past including the Indian Forest Act, The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill etc.
- Some of the changes are intended to bring greater benefits to the tribal population while some are being criticised for prioritising unsustainable economic growth over environmental conservation.
- In the light of these developments, let us analyse the debate between growth v/s conservation and the importance of sustainable development by taking a look at the existing legal system and proposed changes, which is meant to protect and conserve India’s fragile environment and bio diversity along with the traditional rights of the indigenous people.
The need for protecting and conserving the environment and encouraging sustainable use of natural resources is reflected in the constitutional framework of India and also in India’s international commitments. The Constitution of India under Part IVA (Article 51A-Fundamental Duties) urges every citizen to protect and conserve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to display compassion for animals. Further, the Constitution under Part IV (Art 48A-DPSP) specifies that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
Even before India’s independence, several environment protection legislations existed. However, the real thrust for putting in force a well-structured framework came only after the UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972). After the Stockholm Conference, the National Council for Environmental Policy and Planning was established in 1972 within the Department of Science and Technology to set up a regulatory body to look after environment-related issues. This Council has later evolved into a full-fledged Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
The Ministry of Environment and Forest was established in 1985 and the responsibility of climate change was added later and today MoEFCC is the apex administrative body in the country for regulating and ensuring environmental protection and provides for the legal and regulatory framework for the same. Since the 1970s, a number of environment-related legislations have been passed by the Parliament.
The MoEFCC, Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards together form the pillars of environmental legislation in India. Environmental law in India is also closely associated with the issue of forest and land rights of traditional dwellers. In this context, let’s look at the legislations meant for protection of environment and rights of the traditional dwellers.
- Indian Forest Act, 1927
This Act provides recognition for forest dwellers rights and makes conservation more accountable.
- It accords legal recognition to the rights of forest dwelling communities, partially corrects the injustice caused by forest laws, and also regulates transit of forest produce.
- Makes a beginning towards giving communities and the public a voice in forest and wildlife conservation.
- It also defines the procedure to declare an area as a Reserved Forest.
The law recognises three types of Rights:
- Land Rights- Land rights are given to people, who have been cultivating land prior to December, 13, 2005.
- Use Rights- The law provides for rights to use and/or collect the minor forest produce things like tendupatta, herbs, medicinal plants etc. “that has been traditionally collected, use of grazing grounds and water bodies and use of traditional areas by nomadic or pastoralist communities i.e. communities that shift with their herds, as opposed to practicing settled farming.
- Right to Protect and Conserve – Besides, the law also gives rights to protect and manage the forests to people of village communities.
The Act also categorises forests into three categories:
- Reserve forest – These forests are the most restricted forests and may be constituted by the State Government on any forest land or waste land which is the property of the Government or on which the Government has proprietary rights. In reserved forests, most uses by local people are prohibited, unless it is specifically allowed by a Forest Officer in the course of settlement.
- Protected forest – The State Government is empowered to constitute any land other than reserved forests as protected forests over which the Government has proprietary rights. Under ‘Protected Forests’, the Government retains the power to issue rules regarding the use of such forests and retains the power to reserve the specific tree species in the protected forests. This power has been used to establish State control over trees, whose timber, fruit or other non-wood products have revenue-raising potential.
- Village forest – ‘Village forests’ are the ones in which the State Government may assign to ‘any village community the rights of Government to or over any land which has been constituted as a reserved forest’.
- Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (with amendment acts of 2003 and 2006)
- The act includes provisions for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants and matters connected with them, with a view to secure the ecological and environmental security of India.
- The act constitutes a National Board for Wildlife that provides guidelines for framing policies and advising Central and State Government on promotion of wildlife conservation and controlling poaching and illegal trade of wildlife and its products.
- NBW also makes recommendations for setting up and managing national parks, sanctuaries and other protected areas; and Suggesting measures for improvement of wildlife conservation
- NBW also sets up the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
- The act sets up various provisions related to trade and penalties for hunting the animals in wild.
- Five types of protected areas can be notified under the Act. These are:
- Sanctuaries: The State or Central Government may by notification declare its intention to constitute any area as a sanctuary for protecting wildlife and the environment. The government determines the nature and extent of rights of persons in or over the land within the sanctuary.
- National Parks: The State or Central Government may declare an area, whether inside a sanctuary or not, as a national park for the purpose of protecting and developing wildlife and its environment. The State Government cannot alter the boundaries of a national park except on the recommendation of the National Board for Wildlife. No grazing is allowed inside a national park. All provisions applicable to a sanctuary are also applicable to a national park.
- Conservation Reserves: The State Government after consultations with local communities is empowered to declare any area owned by the Government, particularly areas adjacent to national parks or sanctuaries, as conservation reserves. The government will constitute a Conservation Reserve Management Committee to manage and conserve the conservation reserve.
- Community Reserves: The State Government can declare any private or community land as a community reserve based on consultation with the community or an individual who have volunteered to conserve wildlife. A Community Reserve Management Committee will be constituted by the State for the purpose of conserving and managing the reserve.
- Tiger Reserve- These areas were reserved for protection tiger in the country. The State Government on the recommendation of the Tiger Conservation Authority may notify an area as a tiger reserve, for which it has to prepare a Tiger Conservation Plan.
- The wildlife protection act has six schedules which give varying degrees of protection.
- Schedule I and part II of Schedule II provides for absolute protection – offences under these schedules attract the highest penalties.
- Species which are listed under Schedule III and Schedule IV are also protected, but the penal provisions are slightly relaxed.
- Schedule V includes the animals which may be hunted.
- The endemic plants specified under Schedule VI are prohibited from cultivation and planting.
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
The Water Act was enacted in 1974 and it provides for the prevention and control of water pollution. It also aims to maintain or restore wholesomeness of water in the country. It also provides for the creation of Boards for the prevention and control of water pollution with a view to carry out the aforementioned objectives. It further prohibits the discharge of effluents into water bodies beyond a prescribed limit and imposes penalties for non-compliance. The Water Act has set up the CPCB at the central level and SPCB at the state level to lay down standards for the prevention and control of water pollution.
Further, in 1977 the Water Cess Act was enacted. It provides for the levy and collection of a cess on water consumed by industrial activities. The cess collected is used to supplement the resources of the Central and State Pollution Control Boards for the prevention and control of water pollution. The Act was last amended in 2003.
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
The Air Act of 1981 is meant to provide for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution and for the establishment of Boards at the Central and State levels with a view to carrying out the following objectives.
To combat the problems associated with air pollution, ambient air quality standards were laid down under the Air Act. The Air Act seeks to counter air pollution by prohibiting the use of polluting fuels and as well as by regulating appliances that cause air pollution. It empowers the State Government to declare any area or areas within the Sate as air pollution control area after consultation with the SPCBs. As per the Act, establishing or operating any industrial plant in the pollution control area requires consent from SPCBs. SPCBs are also supposed to test the air in air pollution control areas, inspect pollution control equipment, and manufacturing processes.
- The Environment (Protection) Act 1986
- The Environment Protection Act of 1986 provides for the protection and improvement of environment and for all matters connected with the environment. It lays down the standards, guidelines, policies to deal with environmental degradations and policies for improvement of environment and protection of human beings from environmental hazards.
- It lays down rules to regulate environmental pollution, laying down standards and procedures for industrial waste, emissions, hazardous waste etc. It also deals with the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution.
- The Government of India had enacted the Environment Protection Act of 1986 under Article 253 of the Constitution, in the wake of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
- The objective of the Act is to enforce the decisions of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environments that are concerned with protection and improvement of human environment and the prevention of hazards to humans, other living creatures, plants and property.
- The Act is an “umbrella” legislative framework designed to provide a structure for MoEF to coordinate the activities of various central and state authorities established under previous laws, such as the Water and the Air Act.
- Biological Diversity Act, 2002
- The government enacted the biodiversity act to conserve and promote sustainable use of biological diversity and to regulate the access to biological resources of the country to provide for equitable share in benefits.
- It established the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Board (SBB) and Biodiversity Management Committees.
- It aims to protect and conserve the traditional knowledge of local communities related to biodiversity and safeguard sharing of benefits with the local people as conservers of biological resources and holders of traditional knowledge and information relating to the use of biological resources.
- It also has provisions for declaring heritage sites by the State Government in consultation with the local body.
- The Act was passed to meet the obligations of India under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
- The Act defines Biodiversity under Section 2(b) as “the variability among living organisms from all sources and the ecological complexes of which they are part, and includes diversity within species or between species and of eco-systems”.
- It also defines biological resources as “plants, animals and micro-organisms or parts thereof, their genetic material and by-products (excluding value added products) with actual or potential use or value, but does not include human genetic material.
- The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) has been created as a statutory autonomous body under the MoEF and was established in 2003 to implement the provisions under the Act. It is headquartered in Chennai.
Functions of NBA
- Regulation of activities prohibited under the Act.
- Advise the Government on biodiversity conservation.
- Advise the Government on selection of biological heritage sites.
- Take suitable steps to oppose grant of intellectual property rights in foreign countries, arising from the use of traditional knowledge and its associated biological resources.
- Hazardous Waste Management Regulations
Hazardous waste means any waste which, by reason of any of its physical, chemical, reactive, toxic, flammable, explosive or corrosive characteristics, causes danger or is likely to cause danger to health or environment, whether alone or when in contact with other wastes or substances.
There are several legislations that directly or indirectly deal with hazardous waste management. The relevant legislations are the Factories Act, 1948, the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, the National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995 and rules and notifications under the Environmental Act. Some of the rules dealing with hazardous waste management are discussed below:
- Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary) Rules, 2008, brought out a guide for manufacture, storage and import of hazardous chemicals and for management of hazardous wastes.
- Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998, were formulated along parallel lines, for proper disposal, segregation, transport, etc, of infectious wastes.
- Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, aim at enabling municipalities to dispose municipal solid waste in a scientific manner.
In view of the short-comings and overlapping of some categories causing inconvenience in implementation of the Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 as well as the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified the Bio-Medical Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2016 and the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.
The latest BMW Rules of are to replace the Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998, and the SWM Rules are to replace the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. The objective of the BMW Rules is to enable the prescribed authorities to implement the rules more effectively, thereby, reducing the bio- medical waste generation and also for its proper treatment and disposal and to ensure environmentally sound management of these wastes, and the SWM Rules aim at dealing with the management of solid waste including it segregation at source, transportation of waste, treatment and final disposal.
- E – Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 have been notified on May 1, 2011 and came into effect from May 1, 2012, with primary objective to reduce the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment by specifying threshold for use of hazardous material and to channelize the e-waste generated in the country for environmentally sound recycling. The Rules apply to every producer, consumer or bulk consumer, collection centre, dismantler and recycler of e-waste involved in the manufacture, sale, purchase and processing of electrical and electronic equipment or components as detailed in the Rules.
- Batteries (Management & Handling) Rules, 2001 deal with the proper and effective management and handling of lead acid batteries waste. The Act requires all manufacturers, assemblers, re-conditioners, importers, dealers, auctioneers, bulk consumers, consumers, involved in manufacture, processing, sale, purchase and use of batteries or components thereof, to comply with the provisions of Batteries (Management & Handling) Rules, 2001.
- Forest Rights Act, 2006
The act was passed in December 2006 and it deals with the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources which have been denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India. The Act accords legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities and partially corrects the injustice caused by colonial era forest laws.
Rights provided under the Act:
- Title rights – ownership to land that is being cultivated by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a max of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being farmed by the concerned family, which means that no new lands are granted.
- Use rights –to minor forest produce, to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.
- Relief and development rights –to demand rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement; and to basic amenities which are subjected to restrictions for forest protection.
- Forest management rights –to protect wildlife and forests.
Process of recognition of rights:
The Act provides that the gram sabha shall pass a resolution recommending the rights over resources which should be recognised. This resolution is then screened and approved at the level of the taluka or tehsil and then subsequently at the district level. The screening committees consist of three government officials (Forest, Revenue and Tribal Welfare departments) and three elected members from the local body. These committees are also authorized to hear appeals.
Factors that have prevented the proper implementation of FRA:
- Process of documenting communities’ claims:
Under the FRA, the process of documenting communities’ claims is intensive — Gram Sabhas prepare rough maps of community and individual claims democratically. Then they are verified on the ground with annotated evidence and then submitted to relevant authorities. Under the FRA the Gram Sabha is treated as a public authority and if the higher authorities reject its claims, substantive reasons have to be provided for the rejection. This exhaustive process is why the FRA lacks any understanding about the extent of the task and labour involved in documenting claims.
- Reluctance of the forest bureaucracy to give up control:
It is another main factor inhibiting the FRA’s full implementation. The forest bureaucracy has misinterpreted the FRA and used it as an instrument to regularise encroachment. This can be seen in its stress on identifying individual claims while ignoring collective claims of Community Forest Resource (CFR) rights of tribal communities as promised under the FRA. Till date, the total area of land where rights have been recognised under the FRA is just around 3.13 million hectares, which is mostly under claims for individual occupancy rights.
- Narrow interpretation of the FRA:
The narrow interpretation of the FRA by concerned authorities is also to be blamed. It goes against the letter and spirit of the law as it seeks to correct historical injustices and return the forests to community-owned jurisdiction. It also contradicts the estimates for forest area collectively used by tribal and other forest communities that are provided by government agencies themselves.
- Environment Ministry’s moves:
The Environment Ministry’s response also raises concern. Entrusted with the task of conserving our forests, it has instead focussed great efforts on how to hasten their destruction for the sake of development. In doing so, it seems that the MoEF has mounted a prolonged effort to see whether meaningful community participation can be eliminated from the clearance process.
- National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
The NGT act establishes a special tribunal to deal with expeditious disposal of litigations related to environmental issues. The Tribunal has dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters and this shall provide for speedy environmental justice and help decrease the burden of litigation which exists in the higher courts. It draws inspiration from Article 21 of India’s constitution, which guarantees the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment. The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908, rather it is guided by principles of natural justice. The tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same. The NGT currently is seated at five places and follows a circuit procedure for making itself more accessible; New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai are the other 4 places of sitting.
Members of NGT
- The tribunal consists of a full time chairperson, judicial members and expert members.
- The minimum number of judicial and expert members prescribed is 10 in each category and maximum number is 20 in each category.
- Another important feature included in the law is that the chairperson may invite any person having specialized knowledge and experience in a particular case before the tribunal to assist the tribunal in that case.
- A judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of High Court is eligible to be the Chairperson or judicial member of the NGT. Even sitting or retired judge of High Court is qualified to be appointed as a Judicial Member.
- The Tribunal enjoys Original Jurisdiction in the matters of “substantial question relating to environment“.
- The powers of the tribunal with regard to an award is equivalent to a Civil court and the tribunal may transmit any order/award to a civil court having local jurisdiction but however, the tribunal does not follow civil law.
- Coastal Regulation Zone
- As per the government notification, the coastal land up to 500m from the High Tide Line (HTL) and a range of 100m along banks of creeks, estuaries, backwater and rivers subject to tidal fluctuations, is called the Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ).
- CRZ along the country has been placed in four categories. It includes only the inter-tidal zone and land part of the coastal area and does not include the ocean part.
- The notification regulates setting up and expansion of industries or processing plants, construction activity, dumping of waste, mining etc. in the said CRZ. It does not impose any restrictions of fishing activities.
Objectives of setting up CRZ are:
- Protection of livelihoods of traditional fisher folk communities
- Preservation of coastal ecology
- Promotion of economic activity that have necessarily to be located in coastal regions.
Shailesh Nayak Committee on CRZ
- The Shailesh Nayak committee report was commissioned in June 2014 after states expressed dissatisfaction regarding the limitations set by the CRZ notification of 2011.
- The committee recommended several relaxations in the terms set by the 2011 notification.
- It also endorsed dilution of regulatory powers held by the central government in coastal areas.
- The recommendations have been put forth with the objective of giving a boost to tourism, port construction and real estate.
- On development and construction, the report recommends that all activities except those requiring environmental clearances should fall under the ambit of the state and local planning bodies instead of being regulated by central policy.
- The areas affected by this amendment would be coastal towns, rural areas and waters up to 12 nautical miles from the coast.
- For rural areas with a population density of over 2,161 persons/sq km, the committee has recommended that the “no-development buffer zone” be limited to 50m from the High Tide Line (HTL). For other areas, the buffer has been recommended at 200m from the HTL.
- This HTL, though has not been determined for the country’s coastline yet and is currently being put together by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management.
- It also allows reclamation of lands for specific infrastructure such as ports, bridges and fisheries-related structures for the “larger public interest”. The recommendations make a case for allowing temporary tourist facilities in no-development zones in coastal areas as well as permanent structures on the landward sides of national/state highways when these pass through these zones.
- Suggested that urban planning rules prepared by local authorities be prioritised for slum development and rehabilitation instead of the 2011 regulations which were deemed restrictive by states. States would also be able to decide the Floor Area Ratio for construction activity in coastal areas if the recommendations are implemented.
- Limited the central government’s role in coastal areas to environmental clearances and regulating environmentally-sensitive areas.
- The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill,2016
Highlights of the Bill
- The Bill creates the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state.
- These Funds will receive payments for: (i) compensatory afforestation, (ii) net present value of forest (NPV), and (iii) other project specific payments. The National Fund will receive 10% of these funds, and the State Funds will receive the remaining 90%.
- These Funds will be primarily utilized for afforestation to compensate for the loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development.
- The Bill also seeks to establish the National and State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authorities in order to manage the National and State Funds.
Key Issues and Analysis
- The Bill creates the funds for compensatory afforestation and forest conservation. However, there are several factors which have an impact on compensatory afforestation and forest conservation. These factors are mentioned below.
- A 2013 CAG report observed that state forest departments have a lack of planning and implementation capacity to implement compensatory afforestation and forest conservation. While the share of funds transferred to states has increased from 10% to 90%, effective utilisation of these funds will be dependent on the capacity of the state forest departments.
- Land procurement for compensatory afforestation is difficult as land is a precious and limited resource, and is utilized for multiple purposes such as agriculture, industry, etc. This is further aggravated by unclear land titles and difficulties in complying with procedures for land use.
- A High Level Committee on Environment Laws observed that quality of forest cover has declined between the years 1951 and 2014. It observed that poor quality of compensatory afforestation plantations as one of the reasons behind the decline.
- The Bill delegates the calculation of NPV (value of loss of forest ecosystem) to an expert committee set up by the central government. As NPV accounts for about half of the total funds collected, the computation methodology adopted would be very important.
- Draft National Forest Policy, 2018
- Objective – The draft forest policy of 2018 will be an overarching umbrella policy for forest management.
- It aims at bringing a minimum of 33% of India’s total geographical area under forest or tree cover.
- It seems to address the concern of decline in forest productivity.
- Concepts – The draft has introduced some new concepts such as:
- economic valuation of ecosystem services
- forest certification
- national forest ecosystem management information system
- Approach – The 1988 forest policy had adopted a local community- and ecology-centric approach.
- Whereas, the new draft shifts the focus to timber and forest-based industries.
- It recognises “production forestry” and plantations as the new focus area.
- Tribal to Timber – The significance offered to the rights of traditional and forest-dependent communities are being weakened.
- The draft policy plans to leverage degraded land which is available with forest corporations to cultivate “quality timber”.
- This goes against the focus on “fuelwood and fodder development” as outlined in the 1988 national forest policy.
- Production forestry – The 1988 policy had sections called ‘Rights and Concessions’ and ‘Tribal People and Forests’.
- These have been replaced by the ideas of ‘Production Forestry’, increasing the productivity of forest plantations and facilitating greater forest industry interface.
- Industry – The draft policy stresses on the need to foster growth in the forest based industry sector.
- It seeks to support forest corporations and industrial units to step up growing of industrial plantations.
- Livelihood – The current draft mentions about the livelihoods of local communities –
- as passive recipients of benefits accruing from wildlife tourism
- as labour for forest-based industries
- in relation to non-timber forest produce (NTFP)
- PPP – The draft policy proposes a public-private partnership model for afforestation and reforestation activities.
- Plantation choice – The draft recommends ‘commercially important species’ like poplar and eucalyptus trees.
- Protection measures – The draft policy proposes to restrict schemes and projects which interfere with forests that are present on steep slopes.
- Catchment areas of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, geologically unstable terrain and such other ecologically sensitive areas are also covered under it.
- The ecologically sensitive catchment areas will have to be stabilized with suitable soil and water conservation strategies.
- Planting of suitable trees and grass such as bamboo in these areas is also recommended.
- Mechanism – It recommends the creation of two national-level bodies for effective management of the country’s forests.
- These are the National Community Forest Management (CFM) Mission and the National Board of Forestry (NBF).
- NBF will have to be headed by the central minister of environment & forests.
- The state boards of forestry will have to ensure inter-sectoral convergence, simplification of procedures, conflict resolution, etc.
- The state boards of forestry will have to be chaired by state ministers in charge of environment and forests.
- Efforts will be made to achieve greater harmonization between environmental policies and laws like Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.
- Community participation – Efforts to promote synergy between gram sabha & JFMC (Joint Forest Management Committee) will be taken forward.
- This is to ensure successful community participation with regard to forest management.
- The CFM mission will address participatory forest management.
- Financing – The compensatory afforestation fund which is being transferred to the states will provide for effective management of forests.
- It will source afforestation and rehabilitation works in degraded forest areas and for bringing new areas under forest and tree cover.
- Efforts for sourcing funds from other crucial national sectors will be taken up.
- This may include rural development, tribal affairs, national highways, railways, coal, mines, power, etc.
- Forest fire – The draft policy contains measures to safeguard ecosystems from forest fires, and it includes:
- mapping the vulnerable areas
- developing and strengthening early warning systems
- remote sensing technology to control forest fires
- improved community participation
- Climate change – Forests act as natural carbon sinks and they assist in mitigating climate change.
- Climate change concerns will be included in all forest and wildlife areas working/management plans and Community Ecosystem Management Plans.
- Wildlife rich areas and corridors outside protected areas would be identified and maintained for ensuring ecological and genetic continuity.
- Human-wildlife conflict – For ensuring a quick response dedicated teams of well-equipped and well-trained personnel would be developed.
- Monitoring and management of wildlife population would be adopted as part of a long-term strategy.
The government should truly enable the cause of sustainable development and try to balance the imperatives of growth and conservation. The implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 has been highly opaque and there is a serious lack of awareness about its provisions amongst the tribal population and as well as amongst the officials in charge of implementing it. Given the number of complaints from either side, it is time the government reviewed the FRA and also looked at the objections that have been raised.
The government can make a beginning by recognising the role played in the FRA’s slack implementation by the forest bureaucracy’s resistance and as well as the acute lack of awareness about community rights provisions within the government and forest communities. If the government is sincere about implementing the FRA then it should confront the forest bureaucracy and make it clear that any obstruction on their part is unacceptable. The small progress that has been achieved in implementation so far has largely been due to the close coordination between tribal departments, district administrations and civil society.
With regard to environment protection laws, the government should display greater vigour in enforcement and synchronise domestic policy with the mandates prescribed under various international conventions. Constitutional provisions enshrined in the DPSP and fundamental duties should be used as a driving force by the government and concerned citizens respectively to foster greater coordination in order to protect India’s fragile ecosystems and promote inclusive and sustainable development.
Approach for Civil Service Exams:
GS Paper II: Social Issues and Governance
GS Paper III: Environment and Ecology, Sustainable Development
- Critically evaluate the recent changes introduced in India’s environmental legislation and its impact on the rights of traditional forest dwellers. (250 words)
- List the salient features of the draft National Forest Policy of 2018 and draw a comparison with the 1988 policy. (250 words)