26th of July, 2023
Today, I placed my views in support of ‘THE FOREST (CONSERVATION) AMENDMENT BILL, 2023’ in the Parliament.
The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023 will update the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. When the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was enacted, concepts such as ‘Sustainable Development’ were yet to emerge, ‘Emissions’ were not a concern, the need for ‘Carbon Neutrality’ was not felt, and the ‘Rights of the Forest Villagers’ – their traditional livelihood and dependence on forests were yet to be recognized.
Today, there is a growing acknowledgement about the need to balance ‘environmental integrity’ with ‘social responsibility’. Therefore, the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980 needed a vision which is in tune with the realities of today. Towards this, the Central Govt has introduced some key amendments through the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023
I informed the house, how the bill was referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), of which I was a part, and it invited comments and inputs from a vast array of stakeholders. Inputs from border states, mountain states, NE states, Development Agencies, Government Bodies were especially invited and included. We held discussions with all stakeholders – Academics, Conservationists, Environmental NGOs, Think-tanks, Environmental policy developers etc. In total, we received 1309 memoranda along with comments from the various state governments, Departments and Ministries.
This bill focuses on five main aspects:
1) This bill captures this need and encourages the present use to be in harmony with sustaining the forest resources, for use by future generations.
2) This bill recognises the rights of the Forest-based communities, and this is perhaps for the first time the rights of Forest Communities have been so clearly defined. This Bill will further incentivize the forest dwelling communities to ensure conservation of the forests.
3) This bill seeks to provide solid foundation to our government’s commitment to ensure ‘Net Zero Emissions’ by 2070. The bill makes provision for increasing forest and tree cover in the nation to 1/3rd of the land area of the country. This bill encourages private parties to grow Forest in their lands, to act as “Carbon Sink”. Most importantly, this Bill enables the enhancement of overall forest cover in the country.
4) The bill allows for the intervention of the Central Govt for ensuring overall integrity of the forests are maintained. This bill will help the various state governments to gain the benefit of Central Govt guidance as required from time to time.
This will mean that if the WB Govt continues to delay the implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006 in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts, or if the WB Govt wants to divert away Cinchona Plantation lands, then the Central Govt can intervene in favour of the people.
5) The bill provides for developing projects of national importance along the strategic border regions. The bill also makes room for maintenance of rail line or public roads, Defense related projects, and Public utility related projects. These provisions will help with augmenting our National Security, and ensuring that projects of national importance and public use are not hindered
Overall this bill seeks to update the existing Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, to reflect the realities of 21st century.
I am thankful to the Lok Sabha for discussing this bill and passing it.
Member of Parliament, Darjeeling and
National Spokesperson, BJP