Proposed amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 are now available in 11 regional languages including Hindi on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) website.
On Thursday morning, the website showed versions of the proposal paper in Kannada, Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, Telugu, Malayalam, Odia, Punjabi, Manipuri, Bengali and Gujarati languages.
In a circular by the forest conservation division, officials said, “The consultation paper inviting comments of stakeholders on proposed amendment in Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 has been uploaded in the Ministry’s website and PARIVESH portal in Hindi and English languages. Subsequently, this consultation paper has been translated into various regional languages and such versions have been uploaded on the above two portals.”
The Ministry said that in case of any difference in interpretation between English and any other language in which the paper has been translated, the interpretation in the English version will be followed.
It is noteworthy that the versions came 10 days after the Ministry extended the deadline for comments to November 1. The proposal was first introduced in English on October 2, 2021 on Gandhi Jayanti – a public holiday.
Largely, the changes propose doing away with the requirement for government approval for industrial or commercial projects in forest areas while also switching projects that are considered “non-forestry” like mining. Adivasis and environmental activists across India had criticised the government for quietly sending the proposal to state governments in English alone. This excluded many concerned communities from the decision-making stage.
This is not the first time the Ministry has discreetly suggested changes to forest laws. On Wednesday, writing for the Morning Context, Akshay Deshmane reported that the Ministry had just scrapped a previous decision to invite private entities to amend the Indian Forest Act 1927.
According to experts, these amendments would have given the central government more control over forested areas that nowadays enjoy local maintenance and conservation efforts. However, unlike the other forest Acts, the law bestows powers to the state government while dismissing forest-dwellers from decisions regarding the use and demarcation of forests. According to the aforementioned Morning Context report, the ministry has not given up on amending the law,just done away with the idea of bringing in private entities.
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