Centre clarifies on definition of land as forest

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News:The Forest Advisory Committee(FAC) of the Environment Ministry has said that the States need not take the Centre’s approval to define what constitutes unclassified land as forest.

Facts:

What did the committee said?

  • The committee has said that the states have well established forest departments.
  • Hence,they are in a better position rather than Union Environment Ministry to understand their own forests and needs.
  • The criteria framed by the states for their forests should not be subject to approval by Union Environment Ministry.
  • The committee has also referred to the 1996 Supreme Court judgment which has allowed states to define what constitutes unclassified land as forest.

About the Supreme Court Judgement:

  • The Supreme Court judgment in 1996 had expanded the definition of forest to include (a)lands that were already notified by the Centre as forests (b)lands that appear in government records as forests and (c)those that fell in the dictionary definition of forest.
  • The court had allowed the States to evolve their own criteria and define tracts of land as forest and these would then be bound by forest conservation laws.
  • The court had also said that all-encompassing definition of forest wasn’t possible for India because the country has 16 different kinds of forest. 
  • It said that a tract of grassland in one State might qualify in one region as forest but not in another. 

Additional information:

About Forest Advisory Committee(FAC):

  • The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Environment Ministry is a statutory body under the Forest Conservation Act,1980. 
  • The advisory body considers questions on the diversion of forest land for non-forest uses such as mining, industrial projects, townships and advises the government on the issue of granting forest clearances.
  • it comprises official members in the Centre’s forestry division and independent experts, who are the non-official members.