With COP 27 coming up in November 2022 in Egypt India geared up in the last 12 months to come up with important legislative changes on climate action in alignment with its commitment to COP 26 held last year in Glasgow. Forestry in India is a major environmental resource. It is very essential to preserve our biological diversity and genetic resources. The practice of forest conservation is carried out for development and maintenance of the forest areas for the sustainability and benefits of the future generation. The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (legislation) was promulgated to highlight the importance of protection of forest resources, which is read along with Forest Conservation Rules, 2003 (Recent Amendment: 28th June 2022) which executes the action and protocols taken by the legislation. 1The 2022 rules are going to supersede the 2003 ones and shall come into immediate effect.
What Major Changes are incorporated in Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022:
- Constitution of "Screening Committee" in every state and Union Territories to cover the inceptive review of proposals like diversion of forest land.
- Twice in each month, a five-member committee will meet to give their point of opinions and advice to the state government about the projects in time bound manner.
- In line with the notification published, the committee will scrutinize each proposal received by the state government or the Union Territory Administrators, without seeking the merits of the given proposal.
- The committee shall review that whether the proposal is complete and all aspects are covered or not. It also focuses on the locations with respect to the restricted areas or categories.
- The committee may connect with user agency in regards of any clarification or any additional documents that they might require.
- The new rules prescribes review time frame for all sorts of projects.
- The Non-Mining projects (Between 5 to 40 Hectares) shall be reviewed within the period of 60 days.
- All sorts of Mining Projects to be reviewed within 75 days.
Compensatory Afforestation along with Forest Conservation:
When forest land is utilized for activities other than forestry, such as industrial processes, building, or mining, compensatory afforestation is required on the part of the firm to make up for the lost forest. A comparable area of non-forest land is added to make up for the lost forest land. If non-forest land is not an option, degraded forest land that is twice as large as the cleared forest land must be replanted in order to make up for the difference. The establishment of the Compensatory Afforestation Planning and Management Authority [CAMPA] was a result of improper Compensatory Afforestation implementation.
EPA (Environment Protection Act) Provision:
The single-use plastic ban will have the same penalties as the current EPA regulations. A violation of these rules might result in a five-year prison sentence, a fine of up to 1,000,000 INR, or both, according to Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. If the failure or contravention persists after being found guilty of the first such failure or contravention, a further punishment of up to 5,000 INR may be imposed for each additional day that the failure or contravention continues. This sum will be sent over to the EPF. If the offence continues for more than a year, the offender faces a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.
Few key Compliances under the Rules and Legislation:
Defining the Key Compliances:
- Under Rule 2(e), "Compensatory afforestation" defines diversion of non-forest land by user agencies that are funded by the state governments and UT Administrators.
- Under Rule 9, "Non Forest Purpose" defines using of forests for non-forestry purpose after a final approval by the Central government.
- Under Rule 3, "Advisory Committee" defines that this committee shall grant approval or principal approval for the proposal set by the Central Government; de-reservation and any sort of matter in concern to the conservation of forests referred to the advisory committee.
How can we conserve forest?
Sustainable Forest Management: A path to save the nature:
The General Assembly of the United Nations that commenced in December 2007 inter-governmentally came up with a definition of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM).
SFM is a dynamic and an emerging concept that enhances socio-economic balance and values of the environment, of any forest type that will eventually be beneficial for the upcoming generation. This Characterized into five elements:
The steps is not restricted to the above mentioned pointers:
- Periodical Forest resource inventory or Forest survey is very essential
- Forest area classification and properly delineating reserved forest areas
- Determine the locations for replanting
- Control the economic exploitation of forest products
- Prevent mining, fire, and other natural disasters from destroying the forest
- Developing more National parks
Which UN SDGs align with the Forest Conservation Rules:
SDG 13 (CLIMATE ACTION):
Change in the climate action, directly or indirectly impacts the ecological functions and services. The prime goal of SDG 13 is to mitigate emission of greenhouse gas that drives adaptation actions and impact environment in various ways. With the increase in the ecological resilience, a better forest management is quite necessary that would help to bridge the gap caused by imbalance in the ecosystem.
SDG 15 (LIFE ON LAND):
Since the terrestrial ecosystem is at a major stake due to uncountable factors, de-forestation is one of them, which diagonally affects 'Life on Land'. Forests play a very vital role in reduction of natural disasters, mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration. There are few ways to curtail these issues that SDG 15 has pledged upon like sustainable management of forests, combatting deforestation, halting biodiversity loss and reverse land degradation. One effective step ahead to conserve our forestry land is by taking good care of life on land.
If we wish for a comfortable lifestyle, we should also be aware that, what we are borrowing from nature to fulfill that lifestyle and what are our contributions and approach to maintain a perfect ecological balance. Forests are one of our major extraction sources that provides almost everything for survival. Protection of those sources are in our hands and there are certain ways to keep the ecosystem alive for long.
Putting up more efforts towards Sustainable Forest Developments and keeping up with United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals are two of the essential approaches amongst all others. While we are in a verge of completely curbing usage of plastics and depending more upon natural products and forests as our first source of life dependency, we have to give back double the amount we are going to extract. There are probabilities to reshape various methodologies to conserve forests and make a compatible yet sustainable ecosystem.
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