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India’s changes to forest conservation laws may be more harmful than helpful: Ecologists
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India’s changes to forest conservation laws may be more harmful than helpful: Ecologists

Amendments in India’s forest conservation laws that the government says will create carbon sinks and climate change could instead immensely raise deforestation, environment groups have given this warning. The Indian Parliament’s Lower House on July 16 enforced a Bill that truly brings a change in India’s Forest Conservation Act of 1980. The Upper House passed it on Aug 2 amid objections from several opponent leaders.

The Act – enacted to hinder mass deforestation – mandates central government approval before any forest land can be used for non-forest purposes. But the amendments efficiently redefine “forests” to exclude those not publically known by the government. The changes could result in nearly 200,000 sq km of forest land – more than a quarter of India’s forests – getting deprived of their legal safety, according to a letter from over 400 ecologists which was given to the Environment Minister in July.

“Through much of our work, we have been able to notice that these forests are so much biodiverse and are prominent habitats for more than a thousand non-human species… One could argue that this is not just an amendment but a completely new Act,” the ecologists wrote in their letter to the minister. The amendments also eradicate the need for government acceptance for any project concerned to national safety within 100km of the nation’s borders, showing that safety trumps environment safety in these places.