Key Features

Land under the purview of the Act: The Bill provides that two types of land will be under the purview of the Act: (i) land declared/notified as a forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 or under any other law, or (ii) land not covered in the first category but notified as a forest on or after October 25, 1980 in a government record. Further, the Act will not apply to land changed from forest use to non-forest use on or before December 12, 1996 by any authority authorised by a state/UT.

Exempted categories of land: The Bill exempts certain types of land from the provisions of the Act, such as forest land along a rail line or a public road maintained by the government providing access to a habitation, or to a rail, and roadside amenities up to a maximum size of 0.10 hectare. Forest land that will also be exempted includes: (i) land situated within 100 km from international borders, Line of Control, or Line of Actual Control, for construction of a strategic linear project of national importance and concerning national security, (ii) land up to 10 hectares, for constructing security-related infrastructure, or (iii) land proposed to be used for constructing defence related projects, camps for paramilitary forces, or public utility projects up to five hectares in a left-wing extremism affected area. These exemptions will be subject to the terms and conditions specified by the central government by guidelines.

Assignment/leasing of forest land: Under the1980 Act, a state government requires prior approval of the central government to assign forest land to any entity not owned or controlled by government. In the Bill, this condition is extended to all entities, including those owned and controlled by government. It also requires that prior approval be subject to terms and conditions prescribed by the central government.

Permitted activities in forest land: The 1980 Act restricts the dereservation of forests or use of forest land for non-forest purposes. Such restrictions may be lifted with the prior approval of the central government. Non-forest purposes include use of land for cultivating horticultural crops or for any purpose other than re-afforestation. The Act specifies certain activities that will be excluded from non-forest purposes, meaning that restrictions on the use of forest land for non-forest purposes will not apply. These activities include works related to the conservation,
management, and development of forest and wildlife such as establishing check posts, fire lines, fencing, and wireless communication.

The Bill adds more activities to this list such as: (i) zoos and safaris under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 owned by the government or any authority, in forest areas other than protected areas, (ii) ecotourism facilities, (iii) silvicultural operations (enhancing forest growth), and (iv) any other purpose specified by the central government. Further, the central government may specify terms and conditions to exclude any survey (such as exploration activity, seismic survey) from being classified as non-forest purpose.

Power to issue directions: The Bill adds that the central government may issue directions for the implementation of the Act to any authority/organisation under or recognised by the centre, state, or union territory (UT).