20 October, 2019
States need not take its approval to define what constitutes unclassified land as forest
Definition of Forest :
# The Forest Advisory Committee(FAC) of the Environment ministry has clarified that States need not take the Centre's approval to define what constitutes unclassified land as forest.
# The freedom to define land, not already classified as forest by the centre or state records, as forest has been the prerogative of the state since 1996.
# It is based on the supreme court's Godavarman Judgement , 1996, which states that :
a. The Supreme Court judgment expanded the definition of forest to include lands that were already notified by the Centre as forests, that appear in government records as forests as well as those that fell in the “dictionary definition” of forest.
b. It also allows the States to evolve their own criteria and define tracts of land as forest, and these would then be bound by forest conservation laws.
Reason for difficulty in defining a forest:
1. An all-encompassing definition of forest is difficult for India because there are 16 different kinds of forest.
2. A tract of grassland in one State might qualify in one region as forest, but not in another. However, once a State applied a criteria, it couldn’t be reversed.
3. The onus on the States to define forests is also significant because the States often claim that they are helpless in preventing encroachment because a patch of land in question hadn’t been notified as forest.
Eg. A recent instance was the felling of trees in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony, which officially isn’t classified as forest.
Forest Advisory Committer (FAC):
1. The Forest Advisory Committee is a statutory body .
2. It works under MoEFCC.
3. It considers questions on the diversion of forest land for non-forest uses such as mining, industrial projects, townships and advises the government on the issue of granting forest clearances.
4. Its role is advisory in nature.
FAC is turning as a toothless organisation as its recommendations are not being heard.
Source: THE HINDU
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