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Forest (Conservation) Rules (FCR) 2022

Forest (Conservation) Rules (FCR) 2022:

·         Ease of snatching of forest land: 

·         The rules will allow private developers to clear forests without first seeking the permission of the forest dwellers.

·         It means that the Union government has the right to permit the clearance of a forest without informing its authentic residents.

·         Residents won’t have any claim over their forest area in case of any diversion to Non-forestry activities.

·         Compensatory afforestation:

  • The rules stated that those applying for diverting forest land in a hilly or mountainous state with a green cover of over two-thirds of its geographical area or a state/UT with a forest cover of over one-third of the geographical area would be able to take up compensatory afforestation in other states/UTs where the cover is less than 20%

Major Challenges associated with the new rules

·         Consent clause: There are concerns over the provision in the new rules that proposes to do away with the consent clause for diversion of forest land for other purposes.

  • NCST says that the FCR 2022 had done away with the clause to mandatorily seek consent of Gram Sabhas before the Stage 1 clearance, leaving this process to be done later even after Stage 2 clearance.

·         Violation of rights: Project proponents receiving partial clearance will be pushing State and Union Territory governments for diversion at the earliest and it would seriously impact the process of recognition of rights under the FRA.

·         FRA non-compliance: The Commission has pointed out that between 2009 and 2018 of the 128 applications for forest diversion for mining, 74 were cleared at the Stage 2 and 46 at the Stage 1 and none of the rejections were based on FRA non-compliance.

  • The new Rules will only increase such violations.

·         Resettlement: Once Forest clearance is accorded then the dwellers’ claims of resettlement will be ignored.

Counter Argument (Government’s position)

·         The government says that the new rules are framed under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and that the NCST’s apprehension of these rules being in violation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 is not legally tenable.

·         Under Rule 9(6)(b)(ii): the government says the FCR 2022 already provides for diversion of forest land only after fulfilment and compliance of all provisions, including settlement of rights under the Forest Rights Act and does not bar or infringe upon the operation of other laws mandating consent of Gram Sabhas.

·         The new rules will allow parallel processing of the proposals and eliminate the redundant processes.

·         The rules make a provision for private parties to cultivate plantations and sell them as land to companies who need to meet compensatory afforestation targets.

·         It will help India increase forest cover as well as solve the problems of the States of not finding land within their jurisdiction for compensatory purposes.