Environmentalist and former member of the Western Ghats Task Force B.M. Kumaraswamy has come down heavily on the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, stating that it intends to destroy forests rather than conserve them.
Addressing a press conference in Shivamogga on Wednesday, Mr. Kumaraswamy said the Bill, which was introduced in Parliament on March 29 this year, included provisions that would prove detrimental to forests. “The proposed law intends to change the definition of forest. We have court rulings that say one should go by the dictionary definition of forest to define a particular area as forest. However, the Bill states that only those lands that have already been registered as forests under the existing laws shall be treated as forests. Vast hectares of deemed forest and other kinds of area will no longer remain as forest if the proposed law is passed,” he said.
Further, he said that all these years, clearance from the Central government was mandatory to take up any non-forest activities in the forest area. However, the proposed law would remove it and allow non-forest activities, including tourist activities and zoos, among others, in the forests. “Such activities will disturb the forest and end up bringing down the total green cover,” he said.
Mr. Kumaraswamy said that the Centre should not pass the Bill in the interest of conserving the forests.
Anant Hegde Ashisar, former chairperson of the Western Ghats Task Force, said he recently met Forest Minister Eshwar Khandre and appealed to him to take up a programme to protest the sources of rivers in the Western Ghats. “All sources of major rivers are located in forest areas. Hence, the Forest Department has to take up the responsibility of protecting them,” he said.