Environment

CPI(M) opposes proposed amendments to Forest Conservation Act

Polit Bureau member of CPI (M) and former MP Brinda Karat   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Centre’s proposal to amend portions of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) has drawn criticism from the CPI(M). The Environment Ministry has invited comments and suggestions on the proposed amendments which are publicly available as a “Consultation Paper” on its website.

As The Hindu reported on Monday, the modified FCA — among other things — proposes to absolve agencies involved in national security projects and border infrastructure projects from obtaining prior forest clearance from the Centre.

Strong resentment

It also proposes to exempt land, acquired before 1980 by public sector bodies such as the Ministry of Railways, when the FCA was yet to become law. Currently, the document notes, there is “strong resentment” among several Ministries on how the Act is being interpreted over the right of way of the Railways and the highways.

Brinda Karat, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, on Wednesday wrote to Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav that the proposed amendments appeared less about conserving forests and addressing environmental concerns and more to “facilitate takeover of forest land and make it cheaper and easier for corporates, intending to take the benefits of privatisation”.

The proposals appeared to dilute the rights of the States to notify forests thereby further centralising authority in the Centre. Currently, States have the authority to evolve their own criteria and declare tracts of lands as “deemed forest”. Several States however are yet to furnish such criteria.

The “Consultation Paper,” said Ms. Karat, has no mention on protecting the rights of tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers in any of the amendments proposed though the “direction of amendments proposed” would directly impact on the rights granted under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

“The thrust of the Consultation Note is to loosen the definition of forests, protected forests, deemed forests etc. so as to remove them from the conditions of diversion to non-forestry purposes without any reference as to how this will affect tribal communities and forest dwellers.”

‘Specious argument’

To raise national security as a reason to permit projects is a “specious argument” as these concerns ought to be fulfilled according to the requirements of law and specific projects could be considered after Environmental Impact Assessment and granted exemptions along with conditions by duly constituted independent Expert Committees.

“Blanket exemptions with no questions asked are unacceptable,” she noted.


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Printable version | Dec 8, 2021 12:51:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/cpim-opposes-proposed-amendments-to-forest-conservation-act/article36863753.ece

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