NEED TO CONSERVE FORESTS:
The forests are natural renewable resources. They cover nearly 40% of the world’s land. Forests are useful for various purposes such as providing wood, food, and shelter, maintaining the ecosystem, water cycle of the earth and ecological balance, etc. But there has been a reduction in the forest cover throughout the world which is raising concerns.
Constitutional Mandate and Forest Conservation:
The Constitution (forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 has introduced a new directive principle of the state policy-article 48-A and a fundamental duty under Article 51-A (g) for the protection and improvement of the environment including forests.
Article 48-A: protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife – the state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
Article 51(g)states that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.
The first statute on the subject was the Indian Forest Act, 1865. It was repealed and replaced by The Indian forest act, 1927. The present Act i.e. The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 was passed with a view to check deforestation. This act covers the aspects left out by the act of 1927. It aims at putting a restriction on the de-reservation of forests or the use of forest-land for non-forest purposes.
Objects and Reasons of the Forest Conservation Act:
Deforestation causes ecological imbalance and leads to environmental deterioration. Deforestation had been taking place on a large scale in the country and it had caused widespread concern. The act seeks to check upon deforestation and de-reservation of forests.
Restriction on the de-reservation of forests or use of forest-land for non-forest purposes:
Section 2 of the Act deals with a restriction on the de-reservation of forests or the use of forest-land for non-forest purposes. It provides that anything contained in any other law for the time being in force in a state, no state government or any other authority shall make, except with prior approval of the central government, any order directing-
a) That any reserved forest declared under any law for the time being in force in that state or any portion, shall cease to be reserved.
b) That any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose.
c) That any forest land or any portion may be cleared of trees which have grown naturally in that land or portion, for the purpose of using it for re-afforestation.
The term ‘non-forest purposes’ implies the breaking up or cleaning of any forest-land or portion of forest land for-
a) The cultivation of tea, coffee, spices, rubber, palms, oil-bearing, plants, or medicinal plants,
b) Any purposes other than re-afforestation,
But does not include any work related to conservation, development, and management of forests and wildlife.
Power to make rules for carrying out the provisions of this act is vested with the central government. Every such rule shall be laid down before each house of the parliament for a period of 30 days.
The appeal from the decision of any authority under this Act shall lie to the National Green Tribunal. Any aggrieved person may file such appeal.
Penalty for contravention of the provisions of this Act- section 3-A of this act provides that whoever contravenes or abets the conservation of any of the provision of section 2, above mentioned shall be punishable with simple imprisonment for a period, which may extend to fifteen days.