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# Laws Governing Forests in Northeast India: A Comprehensive Analysis

Laws governing forests of the Northeast

## Introduction

The recent amendment in the Forest (Conservation) Act, 2023, has sparked a controversy in the Northeastern states of India. Particularly, the states of Mizoram and Nagaland have shown resistance. This article aims to delve into the complexities surrounding the Forest (Conservation) Act and its applicability in Northeast India, with a focus on Nagaland and Mizoram.

### Sources:

- Government Websites like upsc.gov.in, pib.nic.in, and envfor.nic.in.

- Publications like YOJANA & KURUKSHETRA magazine, The Hindu, and Indian Express.

## The Controversial Amendment

The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023 allows the diversion of forest land for projects within 100 km of India’s international borders without requiring forest clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The Mizoram Assembly has already passed a resolution opposing this amendment.

### Example:

The Dzukou Valley in Nagaland could be impacted by road construction under the new amendment, disregarding its ecological importance.

## Special Constitutional Provisions

Nagaland and Mizoram enjoy special statuses under Article 371A and 371G respectively, allowing them legislative freedom concerning land and resources.

### Example:

Article 371A has effectively enabled Nagaland to keep the Forest (Conservation) Act at bay, as the state assembly has not passed any resolution adopting it.

## Recorded Forest Area (RFA)

More than half of Northeast India is RFA, governed by various forms of control, ranging from State Forest Departments to customary law. The 1996 Supreme Court order extended the Forest (Conservation) Act’s purview to unclassed forests as well.

### Example:

In Mizoram, 84.53% of forest areas that are notified forests have received FCA clearance, while in Nagaland, no FCA clearance has been granted since 1980.

## Forest Rights Act (FRA)

The FRA 2006 was designed to recognize the rights of forest-dwelling communities, but its implementation in the Northeast is not uniform. Nagaland and Mizoram have yet to fully implement it.

### Example:

Mizoram initially adopted the FRA but later declared it irrelevant, citing a lack of claims and insufficient funding from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

## Protecting Forests: Possible Measures

1. **Strict Implementation of FRA**: State governments could enforce FRA provisions before approving any forest diversion.

   

   ### Example:

   States can make Gram Sabha approval mandatory before diverting forest land for development projects.

2. **Legislative Provisions**: The Ministry of Tribal Affairs can enact a separate law for forest rights in cases where forests are diverted for other purposes.

  

   ### Example:

   Enacting laws that ensure that the rights of the forest-dwelling communities are settled before any diversion can take place, thus providing them tenurial security.

## Conclusion

The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023 has reignited debates surrounding forest conservation and rights of indigenous communities in Northeast India. Special constitutional provisions for states like Nagaland and Mizoram add complexity to this issue. To navigate these intricacies, it’s essential to establish a balanced legislative framework that respects both conservation needs and indigenous rights.

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