Withdraw Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022: CSD Odisha

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CSD Odisha, a coalition of Adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29. Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of Adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD will organise a protest in front of State Assembly on 28th July and submit memorandums to the Governor and C.M of Odisha.

The notification of the FC Rules 2022 is a major assault on the rights of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers and on the forests. It violates the Forest Rights Act by taking away the statutory requirement of seeking consent from the Gram Sabhas before approval of the forest diversions by the MoEF&CC. By doing so, the Central government has abdicated its responsibility to ensure the conservation of forests and check deforestation as well as to ensure the protection of rights of Adivasis and forest dwellers as mandated by the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and the Forest Rights Act. Under FC Rules, 2022. The Central government has now passed on the responsibility to ensure compliance of laws including FRA while issuing the final order which reduces the statutory requirement under the FCA and FRA to a mere formality. So in effect, the Central government would now encourage the State authorities to commit illegalities and violations of forest rights.

Furthermore, the FC Rules 2022 proposes setting up of land banks in community common lands and revenue forests for allocation of these lands for compensatory afforestation. It also introduces Accredited Compensatory Afforestation, a new scheme where private tree plantations can be treated as readymade afforested areas that can be offered as compensatory afforestation. Both these violate the Forest Rights Act and PESA, can severely affect rights of Adivasis and forest dwellers, and can lead to massive conversion of croplands into private commercial plantations.

The notification of FC Rules 2022 is clearly targeted to ease business in favour of the project developers and private companies making it easy to take away forest land in violation of the rights of Adivasis and forest dwellers.  It comes in the background of a series of major legal changes either proposed or implemented by the central government and the MoEF & CC for easing business- amendments proposed in the FCA in 2021, IFA in 2019, the National Forest Policy in 2018, and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry– that undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of Adivasis and forest dwellers.

CSD Odisha has demanded the Central Government and the MoEFCC to immediately withdraw the FC Rules 2022 and to ensure strict compliance of FRA and consent of Gram Sabhas before diversion of forest lands.

The implementation of the FC Rules 2022 can adversely impact a large population of Adivasis and forest-dependent communities in Odisha and can lead to massive destruction of forests. Therefore CSD Odisha has urged the State government of Odisha to take up the concerns regarding the FC Rules 2022 with the central government to protect the rights of Adivasis and forest dwelling communities in the state.  Among the Gopinath Majhi,state convener CSD, Mr Prafulla Samantara, Eminent Environmentalist, Sala Marndi of Adivasi Adhikar Manch, Tuna Mallick of Adivasi Bharat Mahasabha, Narendra Mohanty, Pradeep Sahoo and Dr. Sricharan Behera from CSD Convening Team & tribal leader Pradeep Sabar, Madan Marandi were present in the said press conference.

By: Gopinath Majhi,
State Convener, CSD Odisha

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