An Act to provide for the conservation of forests and for matters connected therewith or ancillary or incidental thereto. The Act came into force on 25/10/1980 and is applicable to the whole of India except State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The present Act is in addition to Indian Forest Act-1927 and different Forest Rules framed by the State Governments. The Act was to regularize the ordinance brought out earlier in 1980. Forest was entirely under the jurisdiction of State governments, but during 46th amendment of Indian constitution, Forest and protection of wild Animals and Birds were brought under concurrent list (entry no.-17A and 17B) from State list.
Since most of the mineral deposits are lying under forest, it has become most difficult to get forest clearance for mining from central government. The entire power of diversion of forest land has been withdrawn from State authorities and vested in Central authorities; only the forest management rests with the State Government.
Under the Act, no forest land can be used for “Non Forest” purposes, except with the prior approval of the Central Government. “Non-forest purposes” means breaking up or cleaning of any forest land, or its portion, for any purpose other than re-afforestation. The approvals, granted under the Act, would ensure commitment on the part of the mine-owners to take due care of the forests, and undertake afforestation to restore the land affected by the mining operations. In respect of the mining operations being carried on the forest lands, leased before the commencement of the Forest (Conservation) Act-1980, the approval of the Central Government for the use of any forest land for any non-forest purpose is not required. However, for the renewal of any lease, as well as for a fresh lease, the above prior approval shall be necessary. It shall also be necessary for fresh clearing or breaking of the virgin areas, of the continuing leases, granted or renewed before the commencement of the Act.
By a circular, issued in July-1986, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has stated that mining is a non-forest activity, and so prior approval of the Central Government is essential before a mining lease (ML) is granted in respect of any forest area. Renewal of an existing ML in a forest area also requires prior approval of the Central Government.
The cases relating to the prospecting licenses (PLs) need not be referred to the Central Government for prior approval, provided that these do not involve cutting of trees or clearances of forests. However, the permission to survey, explore or prospect does not imply any commitment on the part of the Central Government for any subsequent use of the forest land. It is specially stated that the above should not be carried out in (i) wild life sanctuaries, (ii) national parks, and (iii) preservation and sample plots demarcated by the Forest Department.
In September-1990, it was decided to give powers to clear upto 5 hectares to the 6 Regional Chief Conservators of Forests (CCF’s). However, even they can not permit diversion of land in national parks etc., as above.
The national forest policy was announced in 1988 and certain amendments were made in the Act in 1988 as per the policy. The Central government is also considering to amend the Indian Forest Act 1927 to make it more effective and consistent with the Forest Conservation Act-1980.