Calm assessment: On the extent of ‘deemed forest’

Syllabus: GS- III

Subject: Environment and ecology

Topic: Biodiversity and conservation

Issue: Definition of forest

Context: Recent Supreme Court decision on definition of forest.

  • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 was enacted to prevent excessive deforestation.
  • However, it applied to forest tracts recognized as such by the India Forest Act, or any other State legislation.
  • The T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad judgment expanded forest protection beyond officially recognized areas, introducing the concept of ‘deemed forests.’
  • However, many states have not yet identified or acknowledged ‘deemed forests’ as per the Court’s directive.
  • The Centre’s proposed amendment to Forest Conservation Act aim to provide clarity, especially for private landowners regarding definition of forest
  • There is concern that the amendments may hinder India’s efforts to create a carbon sink to meet net-zero goals.
  • While hearing a petition challenging the amendment, Supreme Court has ordered the Centre to disclose states’ progress in identifying ‘deemed forests’ by April.
+1 Advantage for mains (Data point)

·      During 1951-75, approximately four million hectares of forestland had been diverted for non-forest purpose.

·      From 1981-2022, the average annual diversion of forest had reduced to about 22,000 hectares(one tenth of 1951-75 average)

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