Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • A parliamentary committee has given its endorsement to the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, which seeks to amend the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • The proposed amendments have attracted objections and controversies, raising concerns about dilution of forest protection and potential impacts on biodiversity, forest rights, and national security.

Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023: An overview

  • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, safeguards India’s forest land from unauthorized non-forestry use and allows for compensation in case of diversion.
  • Previous amendments aimed to expand protection, but the current amendments focus on removing ambiguities and clarifying the Act’s applicability on various types of land.
  • The amendments emphasize promoting tree cover, carbon sinks, national security infrastructure, and livelihood opportunities for forest-dwelling communities.


Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

  • It is the principal legislation that regulates deforestation in the country.
  • It prohibits the felling of forests for any “non-forestry” use without prior clearance by the central government.
  • The clearance process includes seeking consent from local forest rights holders and from wildlife authorities.
  • The Centre is empowered to reject such requests or allow them with legally binding conditions.
  • Process of approval for the diversion of forest land culminates after issuance of final diversion order by the State Government or UT concerned which authorises use of forest land for intended purpose and hands over the land to the user agency.

Key features

  • Inclusion and Exclusion of Land: The Bill amends the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 to make it applicable to land notified as a forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or in government records after the 1980 Act came into effect. Land converted to non-forest use before December 12, 1996, will not fall under the Act’s purview.
  • Exemptions: Certain types of land are exempted from the Act, including land within 100 km of India’s border required for national security projects, small roadside amenities, and public roads leading to habitation.
  • Assignment of Forest Land: The state government requires prior approval from the central government to assign forest land to any private or government entity. The Bill extends this requirement to all entities and allows assignment on terms and conditions specified by the central government.
  • Permitted Activities: The Bill expands the list of permitted activities in forests, including establishing check posts, fencing, bridges, running zoos, safaris, and eco-tourism facilities.

Controversial parts of the Amendment

  • Dilution Concerns: Some critics argue that the amendments dilute the Supreme Court’s 1996 Godavarman case judgment, which extended protection to forests not officially classified as such.
  • Geographically Sensitive Areas: Projects within 100 km of international borders or the Line of Control would no longer require forest clearance, which raises concerns about the environment and security.
  • Deemed Forests and Tourism: Central protection for deemed forests and restrictions on activities like tourism could be compromised, affecting biodiversity conservation and forest integrity.
  • Impact on Forest Cover: Exempting land near border areas for national security projects may adversely affect forest cover and wildlife in northeastern states, which have high forest cover and are biodiversity hotspots.
  • Potential Adverse Effects: Blanket exemptions for projects like zoos, eco-tourism facilities, and reconnaissance surveys may have negative consequences for forest land and wildlife.

Opposition and Criticism

  • Northeast States’ Opposition: Some northeastern states objected to forest land being used for defense purposes without their consent.
  • Environmental Groups’ Concerns: Environmental organizations criticized the removal of Central protection for deemed forests and allowing tourism in these areas, risking biodiversity and forest conservation.
  • Name Change Controversy: The proposal to change the name of the Act to Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam faced objections for being non-inclusive and excluding certain regions’ populations.


  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, despite attracting objections and controversies, has received the endorsement of the parliamentary committee.
  • The proposed amendments aim to bring clarity to the Act’s applicability and promote tree cover, national security infrastructure, and livelihood opportunities.

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