Orgs, environmentalists raise objection to amended Forest Conservation Rules

ITANAGAR, 13 Aug: Various organisations, environmentalists and eminent citizens of the Himalayan region of the country have raised strong objection to the recently amended Forest Conservation Rules (FCR), 2022 and demanded that the central government immediately withdraw it.

They said that “the amendment threatens the trust of the forest dwellers and puts their rights at the whims of state governments, which is clearly delaying and sometimes not even initiating the process of FRA (Forest Rights Act) implementation in the entire Himalayan region for more than a decade.”

Stating that the amendment would deny opportunity to the forest advisory committee members to hear the views and concerns of the forest dwellers, “which will compromise its decision-making process and recommendations,” the organisations in a representation to union Environment, Forests & Climate Change Minister Bhupendra Yadav demanded strict compliance with the FRA and complete assurance of settlement of rights with prior consent of the gram sabhas before proposing any such projects requiring diversion of forests in the Himalayan region.

They further sought “at least 60 days for any such proposals and multilingual language of communication in schedule languages, to ease understanding and participation from greater sections of society.”

“We demand a gradual shift towards rights-based conservation by empowering indigenous communities rich in traditional/indigenous knowledge systems without compromising their own ‘worldview’ and ‘relationship’ with various ecosystems,” the representation read.

They further expressed shock that “all these years, the Adivasis, forest-dependent people suffered as a result of the strict regulatory provisions of the FCA and no relief was provided to them by suggesting amendments in the FCA.”

“The Rules, 2022 proposed by the ministry seem to favour projects proponents by reducing the processing time of the forest diversion applications, without providing the forest dwellers, who are the real custodians of the forests, a chance to raise their concerns regarding forest and biodiversity, to whatever limited extent, through an independent expert body and denying even a fair trial,” the representation read.