Revitalization of forest conservation laws in India

Author: Aadya Dipti

Abstract

We have different laws regarding protection of environment in India. Forest is part of environment and is one of the important resources. As the population increases, people start clearing forest area for satisfying their need. This arises the need for introducing forest conservation laws to protect forest. British administration first implemented forest conservation laws and were later introduce by Indian government. In this blog author is going to discuss the forest conservation laws and changes in these laws.

Introduction

Forest is one of the important natural resources which maintain balance in the whole ecosystem. There are various species found in the forest which are required for surviving of human beings. Due to the increase in population, the need for people is also increasing. People have become so greedy that they have started the exploitation of forests. Forests were being cleared in the last century at a very high rate in India. Before the British period, tribal people look after the forest and protect them, but when the British started ruling India the forest was seen and used as resources for where they earned revenue. They extensively cut the forest to meet the needs of timber and many forests were destroyed. During British rule, forests were vastly damaged and destroyed. The first legislation enacted for the protection of forests was in 1865. The forest act 1865 was passed to regulate and preserve forest exploitation. This act was found not effective as it lacks the punishment regarding forest exploitation. After this act, in 1878 a modified forest act was passed which provide absolute control to the state on forests. This act aims to improve inadequacy in the forest act of 1865. After that in 1927, The Indian Forest Act was passed. In this, article the author will discuss the forest conservation act and its various provisions which help to regulate and preserve the forest.

The Indian Forest Act, 1927

In 1927 a new Forest Act was passed to make forest rules and regulations more impactful. This new Forest Act repeals all the earlier forest laws. This act sought to consolidate the laws related to forest, regulations, and transit of forest products and to levy duty on forest especially timber. The Indian Forest Act has not defined the term forest. The Allahabad high court defined the term forest by adopting the definition of Food and agriculture organization. This act provides a legal framework for the management of forests and provides the procedure by which the state government can classify the forest into three parts that are reserved, protected, and village forest. This act provides penalties to those who violate provisions provided by this act. The Forest act of 1927 had some loopholes; the act had no provisions to protect the vegetation cover of India. It deprived tribal people of rights and privileges to use the forest land and forest products. These indigenous people who were living there for many generations were denied their rights in the forest. The act was aimed to earn revenue from forest products by supplying forest materials to industries.

The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

After Independence from British rule conservation of forest was needed. Article 48A and Article 51A were added to the Indian Constitution through the 42nd constitutional amendment act, 1976 to protect and safeguard forests. Indian parliament with the view to conserve forest enacted The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The main aim of the enactment of this act was to scrutinize the use of forest land for purposes other than forest use. The objective of this act is to maintain a balance between the conservation of forest resources and the developmental need of the country. For the purpose to maintain the ecological balance, preserving the forest, and increasing the forest area by planting trees this act was implemented. The act allowed the use of forest land only for the purpose to meet the needs of development and compensatory afforestation is stipulated to reduce the effects of diversion of such forest area. In some matters, this act has made restrictions on the state government and other authorities to make laws without the permission of the central government. Under this act whole power lies in the hand of the central government and penalties for the violation of provisions are provided. In section 2 of this act, the restrictions on the de-reservation of forests and their non-forest use are provided. This section restricts the state government and authorities to de-reserve any forest land or any portion thereof in the state or any part of the state, they cannot assign any forest land or any portion by way of lease to anybody, or private person, or any organization not controlled by the government of India, etc., without the permission of the central government. Under section 3 of The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 the central government has the power to make an advisory committee to advise on matters related to the preservation of forests. The forest conservation act has undergone various amendments over time, the involvement of the central government creates a great positive impact to protect the forest resources of our country. The concept of compensatory afforestation is an important practice that maintains ecological balance and ensures sustainable development.

Conclusion

Forests are important to maintain ecological balance and the product they provide are essential for human beings. British government started clearing forests for the industries, shipbuilding, etc. They destroyed Indian forest to a great extent. This arises a situation to adopt mechanisms to manage the forests resources. The first step was taken by enacting the Forest Act, 1927 which aim to categorize forests and to put limitations on the interference of government in matters of the forest. There were some drawbacks to this Act like it never aimed to protect the forest area but intended to regulate and earn revenue from cutting of trees. Then after independence, The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 was passed. The act was enacted to control the use of forest land for purposes other than forest use and to protect the forest of our country. Under this act, the central government has the power to make any new rules or changes in the existing laws. This act provides for penalties that contravene with the provisions of this act. In 1988 a National forest policy, 1988 was adopted by the government of India to maintain environmental sustainability and protect the forest while meeting the domestic needs of tribal as well as people living around the forest area. The government should implement very strict laws to protect the forest as these are natural resources and are declining at a very fast rate. Forests are an important part of an ecosystem that supports life, without forests life is impossible.