Changes In Forest Conservation Rules (FCA) 1980:
The Forest Conservation Rules deal with the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980.
- They prescribe the procedure to be followed for forest land to be diverted for non-forestry uses such as road construction, highway development, railway lines, and mining.
- Aim of FCA: The broad aims of the Forest Conservation Act are
- To protect forests and wildlife
- Dissuade State governments’ attempts to divert forest land for commercial projects
- Increase the area under forests.
- States to ask central government permission: For forest land beyond five hectares, approval for diverting land must be given by the Central government. This is via a specially constituted committee, called the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).
- It scrutinises the project and ensures that- the felling of trees and denuding of the local landscape — will be minimal and the said piece of land doesn’t cause damage to wildlife habitat.
- States to ensure rights under FRA 2006: Once the FAC is convinced and approves (or rejects a proposal), it is forwarded to the concerned State government where the land is located, which then has to ensure that provisions of the Forest Right Act, 2006, a separate Act that protects the rights of forest dwellers and tribals over their land, are complied with.
- Compensation: The FAC approval also means that the future users of the land must provide compensatory land for afforestation as well as pay the net present value (ranging between ₹10-15 lakh per hectare.)
- The latest version of the rules, which consolidates changes to the Act over the years from various amendments and court rulings, was made public in June 2022.
- Allows Private plantations: The rules make a provision for private parties to cultivate plantations and sell them as land to companies who need to meet compensatory forestation targets.
- No mention of tribals and forest-dwelling communities whose land would be hived off for developmental work.
- Prior to the updated rules, state bodies would forward documents to the FAC that would also include information on the status of whether the forest rights of locals in the area were settled.
- No consent of Gram Sabha needed: The new rules that a project, once approved by the FAC, will then be passed on to the State authorities who will collect the compensatory fund and land, and process it for final approval.
- Previously consent of gram sabha, or the governing body in villages in the area, was required to give written consent to the diversion of the forest.
- Defined forest land: Those deemed forests listed by state governments up to 1996. Land which belonged to Railways or other ministries and on which forest has come up will no longer be considered forests.
- No approval is needed for Strategic Projects: e.g. strategic and security projects of national importance
- Allows building in Forests: Right to construct structures for bonafide purposes including forest protection measures and residential units (up to an area of 250 sq meters as one-time relaxation).