Forest Rights Act diluted for projects

Updated on Oct 29, 2014 11:43 PM IST

Continuing with its business-friendly regulatory changes, the Narendra Modi government has brought in a key change diminishing the applicability of watershed Forest Rights Act (FRA) for seeking statutory forest clearance for projects.

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Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

Continuing with its business-friendly regulatory changes, the Narendra Modi government has brought in a key change diminishing the applicability of watershed Forest Rights Act (FRA) for seeking statutory forest clearance for projects.

The environment ministry has exempted plantations, notified as forests within 75 years of the FRA coming into force on 13 December 2005 — and not having tribal population as per 2001 and 2011 census — from the environment ministry’s 2009 circular that made implementation of the act mandatory for green approval of the projects.

It would mean that the FRA provision will not apply to a large chunk of forest areas such as the one which the Odisha government acquired despite resistance from locals for India’s biggest foreign direct investment project — the Posco Steel Plant in Jagatsinghpur.

The move would ease approval process for projects coming up near green areas not recorded as forests by the British and not having tribal population since 2001. However, it fails to recognise rights of other forest dwellers.

The change notified by the ministry through a circular on Tuesday gives powers to the district collectors to notify whether FRA is applicable to the project site or not. And they will have to certify that the green area was not a notified forest in 1930 and that no tribals live in thhe villages as per the last two census.

That would be enough for the ministry’s forest advisory committee (FAC) to exempt FRA compliance for the project, government officials said. It’s another benefit would be that the mandatory consent of the body of villagers in and around the project site called gram sabha will not be required.

The ministry said the FRA does not apply for forest dwellers not been living in forests for more than 75 years since the applicability of the law. “Since villages will not have any person belonging to both the categories scheduled tribes and forest dwellers…question of recognition of their rights does not arise,” the ministry’s circular said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Chetan Chauhan is National Affairs Editor. A journalist for over two decades, he has written extensively on social sector and politics with special focus on environment and political economy.

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