The Ministry of Environment has recommended improving the Forest Conservation Act in a direction to do away with the necessity of prior government approval for the improvement or development of border infrastructure on forest land. The Ministry has declared that it creates delays in the implementation of critical projects.
The Environment Ministry has also requested proposals from States and UTs and all the people involved on the suggested amendments to the Forest Conservation Act, within the next 15 days.
The ministry, in interest, has offered to support the states to permit non-forest use of forest land for the implementation of strategic and security schemes that are expected to be performed in a given time frame. It has also suggested lifting safaris, zoos, forest training infrastructure from the meaning of non-forestry activities.
What is Forest Conservation Act?
Under the Forest Conservation Act, permission by the Central Government is compulsory before any State or UT order on alteration, de-reservation, and assignment of a lease of any forest land or the use of forest land for non-forest activities.
Why government proposes to amend Forest Conservation Act?
The Ministry of Environment while submitting to immune infrastructure projects from obtaining earlier permission from the Central Government under the Act said, “Development of infrastructure along the international border areas is crucial to keep Indian border intact and to uphold the sovereignty of the country.”
It continued, “Given the present scenario of obtaining approval for non-forestry use of forest land, many times, security and strategic projects of national importance get delayed which results in a setback to the development of such infrastructure at critical locations.”
Stringent punishments to discourage offences
The Environment Ministry, while seeing that there have been numerous contraventions of the provisions of the Act, stated that it will make punishment more severe to check offences under the law. The Ministry stated that the offences will be non-bailable and cognizable and will also require imprisonment for the period that may extend for one year.