Preserving the Green Lungs

Reconsidering the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill-2023

The critical role of forests in mitigating climate change and preserving biodiversity cannot be underestimated. Sadly, deforestation continues to exacerbate the devastating impacts of monsoons in states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Amidst growing concerns, the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill-2023 was recently passed by the Lok Sabha. The Bill proposes exemptions within 100 km of India’s borders for conservation laws, allowing the establishment of zoos, safaris, and eco-tourism facilities in forest areas.

However, this legislation has sparked justified apprehension among experts and environmentalists. Around 400 ecologists, scientists, and naturalists urged the Environment Minister and MPs not to table the Bill during the Monsoon Session.

They highlighted the severe consequences of climate change and environmental degradation, warning that the Bill could hasten the decline of India’s precious natural forests. In response, the Union Government has assured that exemptions would come with terms and conditions, including compensatory afforestation and mitigation plans.While this may provide some comfort, there are lingering concerns that freeing forestland for national infrastructure projects or tourism ventures could adversely impact forest cover and wildlife.

Moreover, certain provisions in the Bill raise red flags, particularly their potential threat to the Aravalli ranges, which have not yet been notified as deemed forests in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Delhi. The protection of these ecologically sensitive areas demands careful scrutiny and precautionary measures.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change’s admission that a significant portion of funds released under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund remains unutilized is equally alarming. Only 36 per cent of the funds have been utilized across the country in the past five years, and the utilization under the National Mission for Green India stands at a modest 55 per cent.

The new Bill may exacerbate this situation, leading to a counterproductive outcome. It is crucial to prioritize a comprehensive review of the contentious provisions in the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill-2023. The potential consequences on India’s natural forests, wildlife, and ecological balance warrant utmost caution. Instead of facilitating activities that may harm the environment, the focus should be on preserving and enhancing our forest cover.

The preservation of our forests is not just a matter of environmental concern; it is vital for sustainable development and the well-being of present and future generations. Forests act as our planet’s lungs, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, playing a crucial role in regulating our climate. India’s forests are home to diverse flora and fauna, and their conservation is vital for the survival of countless species.

Additionally, they provide valuable ecosystem services, such as water regulation, soil protection, and flood prevention. To safeguard our natural heritage, it is essential to strike a balance between development and conservation.

While infrastructure projects and tourism are crucial for economic growth, they must not come at the expense of our environment. Sustainable practices and alternative approaches should be prioritized to minimize ecological damage.

centralchronicle

Central Chronicle is daily English Newspaper of Chhattisgarh. Central Chronicle has own website www.centralchronicle.in it is first news website in Chhattisgarh.

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