Govt introduces Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha

NEW DELHI, 29 Mar: Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav introduced an amendment bill in Lok Sabha on Wednesday that seeks to bring clarity to the country’s forest conservation law and exempt certain categories of lands from its purview to fast-track strategic and security-related projects of national importance.

Yadav introduced the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023, amid slogan shouting by opposition members demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe into the Adani issue.

The bill was then sent to a joint committee of both the Houses for discussion. The committee consists of 19 Lok Sabha members, 10 Rajya Sabha members and two members to be nominated by the Lok Sabha speaker.

According to the government, the bill seeks to clarify the scope of applicability of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, on various lands. It seeks to broaden the horizons of the Act, keeping in view India’s aim to increase forest cover for creation of a carbon sink of additional 2.5-3.0 billion tons of CO2 equivalent by 2030.

It also proposes to exempt certain categories of lands from the purview of the Act to fast track strategic and security-related projects of national importance, to provide access to small establishments, habitations on the side of public roads and railways, and to encourage plantation on non-forest land.

The bill proposes to insert a preamble to the Act to encompass the country’s rich tradition of preserving forests, their bio-diversity and tackling climate change challenges within its ambit.

It provides for terms and conditions including the condition of planting trees to compensate for felling of trees undertaken on the lands while considering the proposed relaxations under the Act.

It seeks to include more activities for the cause of conservation of forest and wildlife into the array of forestry activities and bring uniformity in the applicability of the provisions of the Act in respect of government and private entities.

It also empowers the central government to specify, by order, the terms and conditions subject to which any survey, such as, reconnaissance, prospecting, investigation or exploration including seismic survey, shall not be treated as non-forest purpose. (PTI)