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Forest Conservation Act (FCA)

Forest Conservation Act (FCA):

The Union Government has proposed certain amendments to the existing Forest Conservation Act (FCA).

Proposed changes:

  • Absolve agencies involved in national security projects and border infrastructure projects from obtaining prior forest clearance from the Centre.
  • Such a permission is necessary under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA).
  • Exempt land acquired before 1980 — before the FCA came into effect — by public sector bodies such as the Railways.
  • Facilitating private plantations for harvesting and exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas deep beneath forest land by drilling holes from outside the forest areas.
  • Building in forests: To ease the grievances of the individuals whose land fall in state specific private forests act or within the purview of dictionary meaning of forest, the ministry has proposed to allow them the right to construct structures for bonafide purposes including forest protection measures and residential units up to an area of 250 sq mtr as one time relaxation.
  • Punishments: Make offences under the modified Act punishable with simple imprisonment for a period which may extend to one year and make it cognisable and non-bailable.
  • It also has provisions for penal compensation to make good for the damage already done.

The FCA first came in 1980 and was amended in 1988.

  • While States had already notified forest land, the FCA made it necessary to get the Centre’s permission for using such forest land for “non forestry purposes” and the creation of an advisory committee to recommend such re-classification.
  • The 1996 Supreme Court judgment (in TN Godavarman Thirumulpad versus Union of India and Others case) paved the way for the calculating:
    • The net present value, or the economic value of the portion of forest being razed for development work that had to be paid by project proponents.
    • The creation of a compensatory afforestation fund.
    • Providing non-forestry land in lieu of the diverted forest.

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