Forest Conservation Act (FCA)

#GS3 #Environment

Context

  • The Union Government has proposed absolving projects by national security agencies and border infrastructure projects from obtaining prior forest clearance from the Centre.

Key Points

  • This is being done as part of amendments to the existing Forest Conservation Act (FCA). Such permissions were required initially according to the FCA.  
  • The proposed amendment is part of a larger rationalising of existing forest laws. 
  • The document also includes a plan that is now available on the Environment Ministry’s website, to exempt land acquired before the FCA came into effect by public sector bodies such as the Railways. 
  • Presently, a landholding agency (Rail, NHAI, PWD, etc.) is required to take approval under the Act and pay stipulated compensatory levies such as Net Present Value (NPV), Compensatory Afforestation (CA), etc. for use of such land which was originally been acquired for non-forest purposes.
  • The proposal also included a clause to 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
  • They also propose provisions for penal compensation to make good for the damage already done.

Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

  • The FCA is the main act that regulates deforestation in the country.
  • It prohibits deforestation for any “non-forestry” use without clearance by the union government.
  • As part of the clearance process, seeking consent from local forest rights-holders and from wildlife authorities.
  • The Centre is empowered to reject such requests or allow it with legally binding conditions.

Objective

  • Protect the forest and the flora, fauna and other diverse ecological components in it. 
  • Preserve the integrity and territory of the forests.
  • Prevent loss of forest biodiversity
  • Stop forest lands being converted into agricultural land, and prevent its use for grazing or for any other commercial purposes and intentions.

Features 

  • FCA prevents the state government and other authorities to take decisions without permission from the union government.
  • It gives full authority to the union government to carry out the objectives of the act.
  • The Act also has provisions to levy penalties in case of violations of the provisions of FCA.
  • The Act will have an advisory committee which will help the Union govt. with matters related to forest conservation.
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