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Forest Conservation Bill: 6 Out Of 31 Opposition Members File Dissent Notes On Amendments

The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, which was introduced to contain uncontrolled and unregulated use of forest land for various non-forestry uses.

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Despite panel's clearance without recommending any changes in the bill, at least six out of the thirty one members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, have filed dissent notes.

It has been reported that the opposition members raised an alarm over exemptions extended to significant tracts of land in the draft legislation.

The bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament in the monsoon session that starts on July 20.

As per media reports, the list of the dissenting members include Congress MPs Pradyot Bordoloi (from the Lok Sabha) and Phulo Devi Netam (Rajya Sabha); Trinamool Congress MPs Jawahar Sircar (Rajya Sabha) and Sajda Ahmed (Lok Sabha); and DMK MPs T.R. Baalu and R. Girirajan.

The Bill seeks to amend the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, which was introduced to contain uncontrolled and unregulated use of forest land for various non-forestry uses.

What are the objections?

It has been reported that both the Congress and Trinamool members have raised objections to amendment that provides exemption for the lands, “situated within a distance of 100 km along international borders or Line of Control or Line of Actual Control,” for “construction of strategic linear projects of national importance and concerning national security”.

According to the Congress MPs, this clause could harm the forests in Himalayan, trans-Himalayan and north-eastern regions significantly.

They stated that clearing such forests without proper assessment and mitigation plan could trigger extreme weather events alongside threatening the biodiversity of vulnerable ecological and geologically sensitive areas.

Mr. Sircar, the Trinamool MP said that the respective state governments should also be involved in the discussion before clearing the forests in such sensitive areas.

He also recommended that instead of extending the exemption to all lands within a distance of 100 km along international borders, it should be limited to area along the “Himalayan” borders.

The Opposition members have also opposed the amendment that restricts the Forest Conservation Bill’s ambit only to the lands that are recorded as forests on or after October 25, 1980, as that would leave out a huge section of the forest land including several  biodiversity hotspots which can now be potentially sold, diverted, cleared and exploited for non-forestry purposes.

Members also dissented against the move to rename the Bill Van (Sanrakshan Evam Samvardhan) Adhiniyam, instead of the existing Forest (Conservation) Act.

Mr. Bordoloi noted that the new terminology leaves out non-Hindi speaking population, while DMK’s Girirajan, said that such “Sanskritic terminology is untenable”.

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