Laws Governing Forests of the Northeast 

Laws Governing Forests of the Northeast 

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs”, and the topic details “Laws Governing Forests of the NorthEast”. The topic “Laws Governing Forests of the Northeast” has relevance in the “Polity and Governance” section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

What is the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023?
What is the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006?

For Mains:

GS2:  Polity and Governance

Why in the news?

The Mizoram Assembly recently passed a resolution opposing the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023.


Key Features of Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023: 

    • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023, was enacted by both houses of the Indian Parliament, with approval from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. This amendment revises the provisions of the existing Forest Conservation Act of 1980, primarily aimed at conserving forested lands.
  • Relaxation of Restrictions: 
    • The amended Act expands the list of allowed activities on forest land, including conservation, management, and development efforts. 
    • It now permits activities such as zoos, eco-tourism, silvicultural operations, and others as specified by the central government. 
    • Specific surveys can also be excluded from non-forest purposes under central government terms.
  • Land Classification: The Act classifies land under two categories: 
    1. declared or notified forests under various laws and 
    2. land notified as forests after October 25, 1980. 
    • It does not apply to land changed from forest to non-forest use before December 12, 1996.
  • Exemptions: 
    • The amendment permits the diversion of forest land for roads, railway lines, or “strategic linear projects of national importance and concerning national security” within 100 kilometres of India’s international borders or lines of control without requiring a forest clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA) of 1980.
  • Land Assignment: 
    • Under the amended Act, state governments or authorities can assign forest land through leases or other means to organisations not government-owned, subject to conditions prescribed by the central government.
  • Central Government Authority: 
    • The Act grants the central government the power to issue directives for the effective implementation of the Act to any authority or organisation under or recognised by the central, state, or union territory government.


Forest Land in Northeast India:

  • Recorded Forest Area (RFA) Dominance: 
    • Over half of the Northeast region is categorised as Recorded Forest Area (RFA).
    • Within RFA, 53% comprises unclassed forests managed by individuals, clans, village councils, or communities governed by customary practices.
    • The remaining RFA is notified forest under the jurisdiction of State Forest Departments.
  • Regional Variation in RFA:
    • RFA percentages vary across Northeastern states, ranging from 34.21% in Assam to 82.31% in Sikkim.
    • Nagaland possesses the highest percentage of unclassed forests, accounting for 97.29% of its forested land.


Challenges and Limitations of Forest Laws in Northeast India:

  • Special Constitutional Protections: Article 371A (Nagaland) and Article 371G (Mizoram) grant unique constitutional protections, requiring Legislative Assembly approval for applying specific parliamentary laws impacting customary laws, land ownership, and resources.
  • Nagaland’s Selective FCA Application: Nagaland has extended the Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA) primarily to government forests and certain wildlife sanctuaries, covering a limited portion of its forested terrain.
  • Conflicting FCA Notifications: Contradictory notifications have arisen concerning the applicability of the FCA in Nagaland.
  • FCA Applicability Across Northeast: Besides Nagaland and Mizoram, the FCA is in force in other Northeastern states, namely Meghalaya, Tripura, Assam, Manipur, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh, each experiencing varying levels of forest land clearance under the FCA.


FRA Application in the Northeast: 

  • FRA 2009 and Recognition of Rights:
    • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA) 2006 includes unclassified forests, among other categories, in its definition of “forest land,” aligning with the 1996 Supreme Court redefinition.
      • The FRA recognises rights under state laws, autonomous district councils, or tribal customary laws.
  • Low FRA Implementation:
    • Only Assam and Tripura in the Northeast have implemented the FRA.
    • Reasons for limited implementation include the perception that the FRA is irrelevant due to land ownership by communities, clans, chiefs, and individuals and the absence of forest-dependent forest-dwellers.
  • Mizoram’s Shifting Stance:
    • Mizoram initially extended the FRA and its Rules in 2009. Still, it reversed its decision in 2019, deeming the FRA irrelevant due to the absence of rights claims and citing a lack of funding from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
  • Nagaland’s Ongoing Deliberations:
    • Under Article 371A, the Nagaland assembly has yet to decide on adopting the FRA, with a committee reviewing the matter for an extended period.


FRA Compliance under FCA:

  • Changing FRA Compliance Process:
    • In 2009, the Environment Ministry mandated FRA compliance and Gram Sabha consent for forest diversion proposals managed by District Collectors.
    • However, the 2022 Forest Conservation Rules eliminated the need for FRA compliance before final approval, shifting the responsibility to state governments.
  • Enhancing FRA Compliance:
    • States can take legal measures to ensure mandatory FRA fulfilment before recommending forest diversion and securing Gram Sabha’s consent.
    • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs can issue legally enforceable directions under the FRA or enact a separate law to safeguard forest rights during land diversion and relocation, aligning with its Business Rules.


Sources: Explained | How the amended Forest (Conservation) Act imperils the Northeast – The Hindu 


Q1. With reference to Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023, consider the following statements: 

  1. Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023, revises the existing Forest Act of 1927 provisions.
  2. Activities such as zoos, eco-tourism, and silvicultural operations are now permitted on forest lands. 
  3. The Act allows the diversion of forest land for strategic linear projects of national importance within 10 km of India’s international borders without a forest clearance.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 3 only 

(d) None 

Answer: (b) 


Q2. Consider the following: 

  1. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA) 2006 recognises rights under state, autonomous district councils, or tribal customary laws.
  2. The FRA has been implemented in all Northeastern and Himalayan states. 
  3. The FRA 2006 originally mandated consent from Lok Sabha for forest diversion proposals managed by District Collectors.

How many of the abovementioned statements are correct?

(a) Only one 

(b) Only two 

(c) All three 

(d) None

Answer: (a)

Q3.  Analyse the challenges and limitations in implementing the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the Northeast region and propose measures to enhance FRA compliance.

No Comments

Post A Comment