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The Definition of ‘Forest’ May Soon Change; Here’s Why It Matters

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is proposing to change the definition of a forest. Here’s how you can submit feedback on the proposal.

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On October 16, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, published a paper for our feedback. This paper has made headlines for the changes it’s proposing. What’s the buzz all about you ask? Read on to find out!

1. What’s Changing?

In 1996, the Supreme Court of India defined what a ‘forest’ is, so that forest areas could be protected. This definition included:

  • All areas that are marked as ‘forests’ in any Government record.
  • All areas that come within the dictionary meaning of a forest.
  • All areas identified by an expert committee as a forest in 1997.

Now, the Government is proposing to change this definition of a forest.

2. Why Does This Matter?

Any development in forest areas needs permission from the Central Government before the forest land can be built on or used for a different purpose. This paper recommends that certain kinds of development should not need Central Government permission before it is built on.

3. What’s Exempt from Government Permission?

The paper suggests that the following things should not require Central Government permission:

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  • Land acquired by the Ministry of Railways or Road Transport and Highways – to develop the roadways/railways which the land was bought for.
  • Plantations have been made along roads and railway lines – known as strip plantations. In these cases, for the development of approach roads or rail lines (to the main road along which the plantation has been made) would be exempted from getting permission from the Central Government up to 0.05 hectares.
  • New technologies like extended reach drilling (which enables exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas deep beneath the forest land by making drilling holes from outside the forest areas) would be exempt from seeking central government permission.
  • A question has been asked about whether development of infrastructure along border areas should be exempt from getting central government permission.

4. The penalty for violating the law has been made stricter.

The severity of action taken for violating the law, has been made stricter. Not following the law will result in imprisonment for up to 1 year and is non-bailable.

5. This is a discussion paper — and needs our feedback now!

This paper is still open for discussion, it has not yet been drafted into a law. This means that we can share our feedback and see real change in the law.

To share your feedback with the government quickly and anonymously, visit Civis.Vote today.

Civis is a non-profit organisation that works to enable effective dialogue between Governments and citizens, on draft laws and policies — using technology to bridge the gap between the two.

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