Forest clearance approved without dwellers’ consent

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The Ministry of State for Environment, Forest & Climate Change has notified New Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, allowing for the diversion of forest land by private agencies without the need for prior consent from its inhabitants.

The ministry recently stated: “The state government or union territory administration, as the case may be, after receiving the ‘final’ approval of the central government under section 2 of the act, and after fulfilment and compliance of the provisions of all other acts and rules made thereunder, as applicable, including ensuring settlement of rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (No 2 of 2007), shall issue order for diversion, assignment of lease or de-reservation, as the case may be.”

The notification, the ministry said, was aimed at fortifying the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Previously the central government’s approval in the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, was effective only after the respective state governments authorised the final approval order for clearance of forest land, as well as ensured the compliance of rehabilitation and afforestation procedures.

With the New Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, the central government’s forest diversion order gets precedence over the respective state government’s compliance rules and Forest Rights Act regulations.