Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Why is there a controversy on the forest Bill?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

Mains level: Forest Conservation Act ,1980 and the Amendment Bill, 2023, key provisions , concerns and way ahead


What’s the news?

  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023 is set to be presented during the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

Central idea

  • Recently, a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) which was looking at amendments to the Bill has approved the version sent by the government with almost no comment, revisions or suggestions. However, multiple objections have been raised over the proposed amendments.

Definition- Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill is a proposed legislation aimed at amending the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 in India.
  • The proposed amendments seek to address certain issues and introduce changes to enhance forest conservation efforts and promote sustainable development.

Background-Forest Conservation Act, 1980 

  • The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was enacted to protect the country’s forests and empower the central government to regulate the extraction of forest resources, including timber, bamboo, coal, and minerals, by industries and forest-dwelling communities.
  • Prior to the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act, extensive deforestation and diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes were prevalent.
  • From 1951 to 1975, approximately four million hectares of forest land were diverted. However, after the Act came into effect, from 1980 to 2023, only around one million hectares have been diverted.

The key objectives of the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

  • Definition and Demarcation of Forests: The amendments aim to provide a clear and comprehensive definition of forest and establish criteria for demarcating forest areas.
  • Renaming of the Act: The proposed amendments include changing the name of the Act from Forest (Conservation) Act to Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam, which translates to Forest Conservation and Augmentation.
  • Applicability of the Act: The amendments specify that the Act will apply only to lands officially notified as forest in government records on or after 1980.
  • Exemptions and Strategic Projects:
  • The proposed amendments introduce certain exemptions from the Act’s provisions.
  • Forest land located within 100 km of international borders and intended for strategic projects of national importance, as well as land ranging from 5 to 10 hectares for security and defense projects, would be exempted.
  • Encouraging Reforestation and Carbon Sink Development:
  • The amendments address the issue of disincentives faced by private parties interested in developing plantations in degraded forests or restoring tree patches.
  • The proposed changes seek to incentivize reforestation efforts and support India’s commitment to developing a carbon sink of three billion tonnes by 2030, as per its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

Objections to the changes

  • Impact on Ecologically Sensitive Areas:
  • The exemptions introduced in the amendments could have detrimental effects on significant forests in the Himalayan, trans-Himalayan, and northeastern regions.
  • Clearing these forests without proper assessment and mitigation plans may threaten the biodiversity of vulnerable ecological and geologically sensitive areas and potentially trigger extreme weather events.
  • Exclusion of Forest Land:
  • Limiting the Act’s applicability only to forest areas recorded on or after 1980 may leave out substantial forest land and biodiversity hotspots.
  • This exclusion could potentially lead to the sale, diversion, clearance, and exploitation of these areas for non-forestry purposes, undermining forest conservation efforts.
  • Renaming of the Act:
  • Dissent has been expressed regarding the renaming of the Act as Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam.
  • The use of sanskritik terminology in the name is untenable and may not be in alignment with the linguistic and cultural diversity of the country.
  • Balance of Power:
  • Concerns have been raised about the balance of power between the central and state governments.
  • They argue that forest conservation falls under the concurrent jurisdiction of both levels of government, and the amendments may shift the balance towards the central government, potentially undermining the authority of state governments in forest conservation matters.

Environment Ministry’s stand on the issue

  • Addressing Concerns: The Environment Ministry has submitted detailed explanations to the JPC to address the concerns that have been raised. The Ministry aims to clarify and alleviate the apprehensions surrounding the proposed amendments.
  • Protection of Godavarman Judgment: The Ministry asserts that the new amendments do not dilute the Godavarman Thirumulpad judgment, indicating that the changes are consistent with the principles laid down in the landmark Supreme Court ruling.
  • Preventing Misuse of Land: The Ministry emphasizes that there are provisions in place to ensure that forest land will not be misused. The amendments include safeguards to prevent unauthorized exploitation or inappropriate utilization of forest land.
  • Specific Exemptions: The Ministry clarifies that the exemptions introduced in the amendments would be limited to specific linear projects of strategic importance identified by the Central government.

Way forward

  • Inclusive dialogue: Facilitate inclusive dialogue with stakeholders, including Opposition parties, NGOs, tribal communities, and experts, to address concerns and objections.
  • Impact assessment: Conduct thorough environmental impact assessments (EIAs) to assess potential consequences of the amendments and develop mitigation plans for ecological sensitivity.
  • Strengthen safeguards: Enhance safeguards for significant forest areas and develop clear definitions of forest to ensure effective conservation measures.
  • Balance conservation and development: Promote sustainable practices like private plantations and reforestation while regulating industrial and mining use of forest tracts.
  • Central-state collaboration: Foster collaboration and coordination between Central and state governments to harmonize forest conservation efforts.
  • Transparent implementation: Allocate resources for monitoring, prevention of illegal activities, and ensure transparency and accountability in forest-related activities.


  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023, set to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. As the bill moves forward for debate, it is crucial to consider the concerns raised and ensure a balanced approach that protects both forests and the rights of forest-dependent communities.

Also read:

Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill and the Forests rights

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