FOREST CONSERVATION ACT 1980

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Forest Conservation Act 1980 is a unique piece of legislation and regulatory mechanism that reflects the collective will of the nation to protect its rich forests, biodiversity and natural heritage and resources. The act permits only the inevitable use of forest land for different purposes of production. It embodies the strong commitment of the Government and the Department to align the protection of forests with the sustainable development needs of a community that contributes to a healthier climate, health and economy.

HISTORY OF THE FOREST CONSERVATION ACT OF 1980

The Indian Forest Act of 1865 was the first legal draft on this subject. During the colonial era, it was later replaced by the Indian Forest Act of 1927. When a law is passed, the expectation is that it would resolve the social problem that it was enacted to address. When the Indian Forest Act of 1927 was passed, the same hope was expressed, but it was limited to British interests only.

The need to conserve forests became more urgent after India’s independence, and the President of India enacted the Forest (Conservation) Ordinance, 1980. Section 5 of the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, which went into effect on October 25, 1980, repealed the ordinance. It was passed to protect the country’s forests and matters related to them. The act was introduced in the parliament on the 25th of October,1980.

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IMPORTANCE OF THE ACT

The main importance of the forest conservation act of 1980 is to protect and preserve the forests of the country and prevent deforestation which leads to land erosion and degradation of the land.  It aims to protect the flora and fauna and other diverse ecological components. It prevents the conversion of forested areas into non forested areas like agriculture lands, residential units and others and also prevents the loss of forest biodiversity.

The State government and other authorities are no longer permitted to make decisions in certain areas without first obtaining approval from the federal government. The central government has full authority to carry out the laws of this Act. Infringement of this Act’s provisions would also be punishable.

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Salient features  

  • Forests were transferred from the state list to the concurrent list under the Constitution. Thus, due to this shift, the Central Government was empowered to directly act in order to conserve forests. This Act ensures the conservation of forest grounds.
  • This Act empowers State Governments to use forest area only for forestry purposes.
  • Forest is treated as a national asset. Therefore, the state governments have to seek the central government’s approval if it plans to use the forest area for:
  • Reforestation.
  • Non-forestry purposes such as mining.  

The Act also seeks to spread awareness amongst organizations and the public at large about forest conservation and protection. The government is required to create an information base.

This legislation has  only 5 sections. However, this legislation is significant enough because it is effective and has been somewhat successful in conserving forests.

SECTIONS OF THE ACT 

Section 1: 

This section talks about the meaning, title, and commencement of the act. 

Section 2:

This section forbids the state government and the  other authorities from passing legislations  in the following areas without first receiving approval from the federal government

Section 3:

The central government has the authority under Section 3 of this Act to form an advisory committee to provide advice on matters relating to the Act.

Section 3a: 

According to this provision, anybody who violates or aids in the violation of any law in Section 2 is subject to simple imprisonment for any period up to 15 days.

Section 3b: 

This case discusses the crimes committed by the Authorities and the Government Department.

Section4:

Through notifying the laws prescribed by this Act in the official gazette, the Central government has the power to carry them out. Any law should be submitted to both houses of the parliament for thirty days before being implemented.

Section 5:

This section of the Act repealed the Forest (Conservation) Ordinance, 1980.

The judiciary has also played an important role in preserving forests and protecting our environment through a variety of public interest disputes (PILs) filed under Article 32 and Article 226 of the Constitution.

State of MP v. Krishnadas Tikaram (1994)

In this case the respondents were denied the renewal of their mining license because the state cannot grant permission without consultation from the central government as mentioned in section 2 of the act. 

Krishnadevi Malchand Kamathia v. Bombay Environmental Action (2011)

The Supreme Court held that the production of salt by solar evaporation of seawater is not allowed in the region as it is home to mangrove forests.

M C Mehta v. Union of India (2004),

the Court re-emphasized that renewal is to be treated as a fresh grant. Therefore, a mining project cannot commence without prior permission of the Government of India.

We are basically dependent on forests for our survival. And so their conservation is of essential importance.

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The most important function of forests is that it produces mass amounts of oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis. Oxygen is the main respiratory gas for all animals, it ensures our survival.
And while photosynthesis, trees also absorb carbon dioxide from the air. This is one of the main pollutants of air pollution. Hence forests also reduce air pollution.
Forests also prevent soil erosion and keep soil pollution in check. Deforestation, in fact, leads to soil erosion on a large scale since the topsoil comes loose.
Forests also play an important part in the water cycle and control moisture levels of our ecosystem.
And finally, forests are the natural home and habitat for millions of species of animals, birds, and insects.

So Conservation of forests is the practice of saving the trees that are cut by industries and other organizations in the name of development and urbanization. It is planting new trees and taking care of them. The number of trees that are cut must be lower than the number of trees that are planted. All the people must take an active initiative to plant more trees in the neighborhood and also stop numerous trees from being cut. Deforestation is the process of cutting trees and making the area of the forest barren and unfit for living for animals and birds. Hence, deforestation must be controlled to control the destruction of the forest.

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Awareness about climate change due to deforestation must be spread among people. Since industrialization is slowly growing in the modern world, properly planned deforestation must be done. The woods which cannot be used and that need less time to grow must be used as raw materials. Selectively the trees are cut so that rare trees are preserved.

Forest fires are the primary source of deforestation. Proper measures to prevent forest fires should be taken. Old woods that can catch fire due to lightning must be removed. Steps to lower the forest fires should be considered. Planning and execution of the elimination of forest fires must be done priorly by the government. 

Various reforestation programs like the World Environment Day celebrated on June 5th of every year should be practiced by multiple schools and colleges. Youth must be encouraged to plant and look after the plants. The importance of conserving the trees must be explained to the people. 

The exploitation of forest products must be stopped. Strict rules and implementation of the regulations must be made on people who exploit forest wealth. Forest management departments should take care of the sustainable growth of the forests and ensure that hunting and poaching activities are avoided.

Wildlife Conservation

The protection of diverse wildlife in the forest is called wildlife conservation. Wildlife is the animals and birds that live in the woods and that are not domesticated by anyone. The wood is their natural habitat, and destruction of the forests leads these animals to become homeless. These animals can later come among the villages and feed on the crops as they do not have a specific home to live. 

Medicinal plants that have an essential therapeutic value are obtained in forests. Most of the antibiotics are manufactured by the raw materials found in the woods. Almost one-third of the pharmaceutical industry gets its raw materials from the woods. These medicinal plants may also have the potential to cure many diseases that man has not found a cure for. Hence, forests are essential places for scientists to find specimens to research and find a cure, explore different properties of plants. These medicinal plants are wild and can also come under the term of wildlife.

Forests and wildlife are necessary to regulate the population of different species of animals and birds. The forest ecosystem has primary, secondary, and tertiary consumers in the food chain. 

Forests help in maintaining biodiversity as various species of organisms takes shelter in the woods. Microorganisms that are necessary for the biosphere to survive, such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria, also take refuge in the soil of the forest. They regulate the nitrogen content of the earth and make it sustainable for living.

AS FORESTS ARE CALLED AS LUNGS OF EARTH —— SO THERE IS UTMOST NEED TO PROTECT IT.\

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@MANISHA NANDAN

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