New forest conservation rules spark a fight

The debate over the new Forest Conservation Rules brought in by the Central government is heating up ahead of Parliament’s monsoon session.
New forest conservation rules spark a fight

NEW DELHI: The debate over the new Forest Conservation Rules brought in by the Central government is heating up ahead of Parliament’s monsoon session. Some fireworks are expected in the two Houses when the government places it for approval, with Congress readying its arsenal to mount an attack on the Modi government for trying to ‘dispossess’ tribals of their rights even as it seeks to bolster its pro-ST credentials by nominating Droupadi Murmu, who belongs to the Santhal tribe, as presidential candidate.

The government, of course, refutes the charge. Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda alleged that the Congress allegations were “just a futile attempt to divert the attention from the fact that NDA’s presidential candidate is a tribal lady”. Here’s a look at the rules that have triggered a verbal spat between the two sides:

New rules to ‘streamline’ green clearance process

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) notified the Forest Conservation Rules, 2022 on June 28, that will replace the earlier rules notified in 2003

The new rules will be placed for approval of both Houses of Parliament in the coming monsoon session

What is the change?

  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, popularly known as the Forest Rights Act, 2006, confers land and livelihood rights both individual and community to tribal, Dalit and other families living in forest areas. Under the law, FRA compliance is mandatory before clearance is accorded for diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes
  • The Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, delinks mandatory FRA compliance for seeking forest clearance for infrastructure projects and puts onus on states/UTs to ensure that it is complied with before the forest land is handed over to the project proponent

How will the new rules affect tribal rights?
The new rules allow the Union government to permit the clearing of a forest for a project before prior consent of the forest dwellers, as mandated under the 2006 Act

Opposition’s charge

  • The new rules will dilute Forest Rights Act, 2006
  • Will disempower forest tribals and may displace them
  • Once forest clearance is accorded, dwellers’ claims of resettlement will be ignored
  • States will be under greater pressure from Centre to accelerate land diversion process

Centre’s claim

  • New rules do not dilute or infringe on the provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006
  • They have been promulgated to streamline approval process
  • Will allow parallel processing of the proposals and eliminate the redundant processes
  • States/UTs can ensure compliance of the FRA “at any stage”

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The New Indian Express