The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023


The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023, was passed by the Lok Sabha. It seeks to amend the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.


  • The Indian Forest Act, 1927, was enacted to consolidate the laws related to forests, forest land, and wildlife protection, It provides for the protection and management of forest resources.
  • Post-Independence, under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, reserved and protected forests were designated, but some forested areas were ignored, and non-forest lands were misclassified as forest.
  • Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, enacted for heightened forest protection and to oversee forest land use and aimed to address the issues of indiscriminate felling of forests.
  • It prohibits the felling of forests for any non-forestry use without prior clearance by the central government, aiming to ensure the sustainable management of forest resources.
  • In the 1996 Godavarman case, the Supreme Court expanded the purview of the FCA, 1980 by interpreting the meaning of forest as its dictionary definition.
  • In June 2022, amendments were proposed allowing developers to raise plantations on non-FC Act applicable land.

Interpretation of forest land: T.N. Godavarman vs. Union of India Judgment (12 December 1996)

  • The term forest land is interpreted broadly and inclusively.
  • The court ruled that forest includes all statutorily recognized types, regardless of designation.
  • The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 applies to all forests, no matter their ownership or type.

The Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, and Forests (2019) suggested

  • Pressure on forest land has increased.
  • Ease of diverting forest land for non-forest purposes.
  • Expanding forest activities are permitted on forest land.

Table: The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023

ProvisionsNew ClausePrior ClauseReformsConcerns
New nameJan Vishwas NoneSanskrit terminologies has been criticized
Include more types of Land2 types of land
1. Land declared as forest under Indian Forest Act, 1927.
2. Land notified as forest after the 1980 Act was enforced.

*Excludes land converted to non-forest use before December 12, 1996.
Acts previously applied primarily to notified forest land or land declared a forest.Broadens the Act’s applicability to various types of forest lands.Possible deforestation issues due to the exemption of land converted before 1996.
Exempted Categories of Land1. Forest land near borders for strategic linear projects for national security.
2. land along a rail line or a public road maintained by the
government providing access to a habitation, or to a rail, and roadside amenities.
The previous rules did not specify these exemptions, and the Act primarily focused on preventing large-scale deforestation.Encourages specific activities by providing exemptions for themImpact on forest cover, particularly in regions with high biodiversity and forest cover, like the North-eastern states.
Assignment/Leasing of Forest LandThe Bill extends the requirement for prior approval from the central government to assign forest land to any entity, whether government-owned or not.Previously, this requirement primarily applied to non-government entities.Government-owned and controlled entities now require prior approval from the central government, with specified terms and conditions.Concerns could arise if the central government does not effectively monitor and enforce, potentially leading to unsustainable use of forest land.
Permitted Activities in Forest LandThe Bill expands the list of permitted activities in forest land, including: – Establishing zoos and safaris. – Eco-tourism facilities. – Silvicultural operations (enhancing forest growth). – Other purposes specified by the central government.Previously, the Act had a more limited list of activities, mainly focused on forest management.The inclusion of new activities broadens the scope of what can be done in forest land.Impact on wildlife and forest ecosystems, especially if new activities lead to habitat disruption and degradation.
Power to Issue DirectionsThe Bill grants the central government the authority to issue directions for the implementation of the Act to any authority or organization recognized by the central, state, or union territory governments.The previous rules did not explicitly provide for the central government’s power to issue such directions.This Amendment gives the central government a more direct role in overseeing the Act’s implementation and can help address potential challenges in coordination.Ensuring effective implementation of the Act’s provisions, potentially leading to delays or inefficiencies if not managed effectively.

Way Forward

  • Conduct comprehensive assessments of proposed Amendments’ impacts on forests and biodiversity.
  • Engage in meaningful consultations with diverse stakeholders for transparency and inclusivity.
  • Prioritize conservation efforts in ecologically sensitive regions and biodiversity hotspots.
  • Implement sustainable development practices to minimize forest degradation.
  • Strengthen institutional capacity for effective forest management and regulation enforcement.
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