Activists fears over Regulatory Relaxation of Forest Areas!-Karma-Global
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Activists fears over Regulatory Relaxation of Forest Areas!


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Activists fears over Regulatory Relaxation of Forest Areas!

Last month, the Lok Sabha passed the controversial Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill 2023. The Bill has drawn flak from forest rights activists and conservationists for some of its provisions that dilute the very concept of forest conservation and afforestation. Forest rights activists say that the new amendment could impact close to two lakh square kilometres of forests in India. 


Will the New Forest Bill Pave Way for Forest Diversion?

BK Singh, ex-Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka, states that the opposition to the Bill is based on various points, but the one that concerns him the most relates to the potential diversion of natural forests. “Following this amendment, natural forests could be opened up for diversions for zoos, safaris, and tourism infrastructure, among other activities. This could lead to dire consequences. For example, a few years ago, we observed the construction of a safari at Jim Corbett National Park near the Kalagarh gate. This resulted in the loss of several precious trees.  These areas should be regarded as sanctum sanctorum with limited human interference. 

Manshi Asher, an environmental justice activist states that the new amendments are bound to make some of our prized forest lands lose their legal shield. “The Himalayan states have a vast area classified as forest land. While a significant portion of this is legally classified as forest, there’s also a substantial amount that isn’t classified. This forest bill exempts unclassified forests or those not recorded under the Indian Forest Act. This implies that if these forests are diverted for non-forest purposes, they won’t fall under the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act 1980. Consequently, they won’t need to undergo the forest clearance process by the central government. The forest clearance process is a protective legislation that aids in forest conservation and in safeguarding the livelihoods of communities reliant on these forests”.


 What the Government has to say? 

Bhupender Yadav, India’s minister for environment, forest and climate change, told parliament on Wednesday the law needed to be tweaked as it was difficult for the government even to build toilets inside schools covered by forest area protections.

The new law would also make it easier for India’s government to construct strategic projects “of national importance and concerning national security” within 100 km (62 miles) from international borders, especially in biodiversity hotspots in India’s northeast.

Such changes, critics say, could lead to excessive construction in the pristine tourist hotspot of Kashmir and other hilly forests in Himalayan states.

“This not only affects the ecology in the Himalayan and north-eastern regions, but also the livelihoods of those communities living at the margins,” Jairam Ramesh, India’s former environment minister and member of opposition Congress party, wrote in a post on Wednesday.


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