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Himachal green groups oppose proposed amendments to Forest Act

IANS | October 29, 2021 06:44 PM

SHIMLA: Representatives of environment and community organisations in Himachal Pradesh on Friday raised objections to the recent draft of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change that proposed amendments to the Forest Conservation Act of 1980.

A submission signed by 24 organisations and individuals raised concerns about the manner in which the amendments are being proposed, the adverse implications of the changes for the landless and forest dependent people and sensitive ecology of this mountain state.

The submission says, "Almost two-third of Himachal's geographical area is under the jurisdiction of the forest department. More than 90 per cent of the population is rural and the communities fall under the categories of Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers under the purview of the Forest Rights Act of 2006.

"The draft was published on the ministry's website and gives time till November 1 for comments. This leaves out the possibility of any democratic process in this exercise where people should have a say."

Himachal Pradesh is a floral and faunal biodiversity hotspot, home to a variety of forests.

"They stand threatened due to large-scale construction of dams, four-lane highways, mines and other infrastructure. Further, the state is under the severe impact of climate crisis, especially disasters, leading to loss of lives and public property. The draft amendments seem to be doing the opposite, " it said.

The changes proposed by the ministry are about deregulating the clearance process to benefit the interests of private companies. For example, exempting a Central government forest clearance requirement for infrastructure projects in border areas, they said, adding that such an amendment would be an utmost disaster.

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