Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 was passed to prevent deforestation, which results in ecological imbalance and environmental deterioration. It prevents even the State Governments and any other authority de-reserve a forest which is already reserved. It prohibits forestland to be used for non-forest purposes, except with the prior approval of the Central Government.
The Salient features of Forest Act
- The state government can use the forests only for forestry purposes. For non-forest purposes like mining or for monoculture of the economically important trees the state government has to take prior approval of central government.
- Provisions for conservation of all types of forests and for this purpose there is an advisory committee which recommends funding for it to the central government.
- Immediate halt to any illegal forest activity within a forest area.
1992 Amendment in the Forest Act
- In 1992, a few amendments were made in the Act which made arrangements for permitting some non-forest exercises in forests, without cutting trees or restricted cutting with advance endorsement of central government. These activities involve setting of transmission lines, seismic reviews, investigation, drilling and hydroelectric tasks. The last action includes large-scale destruction of forests, for which earlier endorsement by the central Govt. is necessary.
- Under this Act, investigation or review in Wildlife sanctuaries, national parks etc. is absolutely prohibited without prior endorsement by central government, even if no tree- felling is included.
- Cultivation of cash-crops e.g. tea, coffee, spices, rubber and plants, are included as non- forestry activity and not permitted in reserve forests.
- The central govt. has to endorse even the cultivation of fruit- bearing trees, oil-yielding plants or plants of medicinal value in forest area. This is on the grounds that recently presented species in the forest area may cause an imbalance in the forest ecology. In case the species to be planted is a local species, then no pior clearance is required.
- Tusser cultivation (a kind of silk-yielding insect) in forest areas by tribals is a method for their livelihood is treated as a forestry activity as long as the host trees are not some specific trees like Asan or Arjun. This is done so as to dishearten monoculture rehearses in the woodland which are otherwise wealthy in biodiversity.
- Plantation of mulberry for rearing silkworm is viewed as a non-forest exercise. The explanation is same as described previously.
- Mining is a non-forestry activity and prior endorsement of central govt. is required. The Supreme Court for a case involving T.N. Godavarman Thirumulkpad Vs. Association of India (1997) guided all on-going mining exercises to be stopped quickly in any forest area of India if it had not been endorsed in advance by the central government.
- Removal of stones, bajri, rock and so on from river-beds situated inside the forest zone fall under non-forest activity.
- Any proposition sent to central govt. for non-forest action must have a cost-benefit analysis and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the proposed exercise regarding its ecological and socio-economic effects.
- Consequently, the Forests (Conservation) Act has made abundant arrangements for preservation and security of forests and prevention of deforestation.