CPI-M slams Forest Act amendments proposed by Env ministry


Criticizing the proposed changes to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Wednesday said it will end up privitizing forests and forest resources.

Given the context of privatization of infrastructure projects which require forest land, the proposals will not only facilitate takeover of forest land, but make it cheaper and easier for corporates, intending to take the benefits of privatization, a letter by CPI-M leader Brinda Karat to Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said.

Karat’s letter came two days after the Ministry came out with a consultation paper seeking comments on a number of changes to the Forest Act.

“This also includes mining companies with the mining sector being opened up for takeover by domestic and foreign companies. This is what underlies the points raised in the note, which we oppose as they are more concerned about protecting private interests and projects rather than addressing environment concerns,” Karat said.

The proposals tend to dilute the rights of the States to notify forests thereby further centralizing authority in the central government, she pointed out.

Stating that the “thrust of the Consultation Note is to loosen definition of forests, protected forests, deemed forests etc, so as to remove them from the conditions of diversion to non-forestry purposes without any reference as to how this will affect tribal communities and forest dwellers,” Karat alleged that the note is completely silent on “protection of the rights granted by law to tribal communities and other traditional forest dwellers.”

The proposal amounts to liberalization of the present structure to permit easier diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes without heed to any regulation, she further said, adding, “this will end up privatising forests and forest resources.”

If really necessary, as case by case examination by MoEFCC may show, then any exemption may be granted by a duly authorized Expert Committee, rather than through a blanket exemption provision as proposed, the letter, also released to the media, said.

“I would request you not to go ahead with these proposals as they are nothing but liberalization to favour private interests over the interests of tribal communities, traditional forest dwellers and environmental concerns,” Karat urged Yadav.