‘Draft amendment to forest act not cleared by government’: Prakash Javadekar
The Union government has distanced itself from a controversial zero draft amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927, which sparked protests in several states earlier this year on the grounds that it would divest tribals and other forest-dwelling communities of their rights over forest land and resources.
One of the principal concerns of tribal groups and activists is that the provisions of the zero draft amendment give more powers to forest officers, including the use of firearms and greater immunity from prosecution.
In an interview to Hindustan Times in which he spoke on a range of issues, Union minister for environment & forest and information & broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said the draft was “not government-approved”.
“There is no amendment. Let me make it clear that we have not proposed a single amendment to the Indian Forest Act. It’s a zero draft for discussion. Officers had drafted it. It’s not a government-approved draft,” Javadekar said.
The minister also reiterated the environment ministry’s stand on the health impacts of air pollution, saying that while it caused serious health concerns, there was no direct correlation between air pollution and premature deaths.
“Premature deaths are a serious issue. It is not happening only in Delhi, but in non-polluted areas also. Therefore there is no direct correlation [with pollution]. But because of air pollution there is a problem of pulmonary, lungs, throat infection which definitely impacts. Therefore, we have taken major action,” he said, adding that the rise in good air days is partly a result of the policies of the last five years.
Javadekar said he expects 102 cities to deliver on the target of reducing particulate matter (PM) emissions by 20 to 30% without any legally binding clauses. One of his strategies will be to ask every citizen to plant saplings and ensure they grow into trees and create an oxygen bank for the person.
The minister said that reducing the time taken in issuing environmental clearances from 108 days to between 70 and 80 days was one of his main targets. “We want to make the process more rigorous but at the same time it can be made easy. Time lag [for environmental clearance] which was 680 days during Jairam Ramesh and Jayanthi Natarajan [environment ministers under the United Progressive Alliance regime] has come down to 108 and I want to bring it down to 70-80 days,” he said.