Aiming to offer a comprehensive amendments to the Indian Forest Act, The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) has finalised the first draft of the amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
Some of the proposed features of the draft amendments are, defining community as a group of persons specified on the basis of government records living in a specific locality and in joint possession and enjoyment of common property resources, without regard to race, religion, caste, language and culture. Under the proposed amendment Forest is defined to include any government or private or institutional land recorded or notified as forest/forest land in any government record and the lands managed by government/community as forest and mangroves, and also any land which the central or state government may by notification declare to be forest for the purpose of this Act. The amendments shift the focus of the Indian Forest Act from laws related to transport of forest produce and the tax on it to conservation, enrichment and sustainable management of forest resources and matters connected therewith to safeguard ecological stability to ensure provision of ecosystem services in perpetuity and to address the concerns related to climate change and international commitments.
The amendment provides that if the state government, after consultation with the central government, feels that the rights under Forest Rights Act will hamper conservation efforts, then the state may commute such rights by providing compensation to maintain the social organisation of the forest-dwelling communities or alternatively set out some other forest tract of sufficient extent, and in a locality reasonably convenient, for the purpose of such forest dwellers. The amendment introduces a new category of forests namely production forests which will be forests with specific objectives for production of timber, pulp, pulpwood, firewood, non-timber forest produce, medicinal plants or any forest species to increase production in the country for a specified period.