Karnataka

‘Amendments to Act will add to further degradation of ghats’

Opposition is mounting against the proposed amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.   | Photo Credit: REPRESENTATIONAL PHOTO

Opposition is mounting against the proposed amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, with environmentalists and activists arguing that it will lead to further degradation of forests, especially in ecologically sensitive areas such as the Western Ghats.

Scientists and environmentalists have already flagged concerns regarding the degradation of this region, and they say further dilution of laws will only contribute further to this.

Among the issues for consultation is that of private land in forest areas. “Considering any private area as forest would restrict the right of an individual to use his/her own land for any non-forestry activity. Many a time, the proposed change in land use is not considered by the government even under the provisions of the Act. Even if the same is allowed, the owner has to provide equivalent non-forest land and other compensatory levies, for use of his own land for intended non-forestry purpose. This has further led to the development of a tendency to keep most private land devoid of vegetation even the land has scope for planting activities,” a consultation paper on the proposed amendments said. It also speaks of “strong resentment in the Ministry of Railways, the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, etc.” over the right of way.

With the enactment of the Act, all such land requires prior approval of the government for non-forestry use.

“The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is now considering to exempt such land acquired before October 25, 1980, from the purview of the Act,” according to the paper.

Environmentalists say this could sound the death knell for the biodiversity-rich Ghats. Shivamogga-based environmentalist Akhilesh Chipli alleged that the proposition is simply “out to sell the Western Ghats.” “There are so many amendments being brought out — first the draft EIA, now the Forest Act. All of these are aimed at benefitting the private sector. A lot of land is already gone. Western Ghats is as unique as the Amazon rainforests. But it looks like these amendments are aimed at ensuring that nothing should be left here,” he said.

G. Veeresh, honorary wildlife warden, Chikkamagaluru also said with no forest clearance needed for road and other works, the amendments will help contractors and no one else.

“The Western Ghats already has many non-forest activities and many wildlife corridors have already been cut off. If you are amending existing Acts on top of this in the name of development, forest areas will reduce further. Without requiring permission, you are handing over the advantage to those who want to open more forest areas and this will lead to more conflicts,” he said.

He added that with many villages “upgrading” into towns and so on, these Acts are the only ones helping save forests.


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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 10:06:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/amendments-to-act-will-add-to-further-degradation-of-ghats/article37079712.ece

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