Guwahati: A state-level meeting of the environmentalists was organised at the Assam Sahitya Bhawan on August 7 to review the notified Forest Conservation Rules, 2022, under the Forest Conservation Act, along with discussing the merits and demits of various forest and environmental laws and regulations in Assam.
The discussion panel during the review meeting referred to the notified rules as a “weak step”. The environmentalists claimed that the new rules “threatened the lives of the people and the forest around them”.
Environmentalists from many districts of the state attended the meeting. Opposing the Forest Conservation Rules, 2022, they unanimously agreed that it posed threat to the forests of the state.
The freshly notified rules will let private developers cut down forests without first ensuring the consent of the forest dwellers, a change that violates a provision of the Forest Rights Act.
Earlier, the Centre was required to verify the consent of the forest dwellers and ensure recognition of their rights over the forest before private projects could be approved. Now, the consent comes later and the payment from the compensatory afforestation for the Centre will take precedence.
“The earth’s environment will deteriorate unless we fight and stop unmitigated resource exploitation. Exploitation has continued unchecked for ages for the benefit of a few in power and has caused major degradation of the environment and disturbing natural habitats,” environmentalist Mukul Dutta said.
“Assam is a state rich in bio-diversity, and as young leaders, if we don’t fight to preserve it, one day the beauty of Assam will no longer be there for our future generations to enjoy,” said Noihrit Gogoi.
Advocate Kishore Kumar Kalita said, “The Forest Conservation Rules, 2022, will completely destroy the rights of village meetings and the process of the public hearing.”
The review meeting concluded with the decision of those present to write to every MLA of the state and appeal to the President of India against the notified rules. A proposal to set up an ‘Environment Protection Action Committee’ to carry out activities in the coming days against the Forest Conservation Rules, 2022, is also in the works.
“Most of the indigenous people living in the forests of Assam have not yet got land rights through the Forest Rights Act, 2006, so the Forest Conservation Rules, 2022, will pose a threat to the people living in the forests,” Guwahati High Court’s senior advocate, Shantanu Barthakur, said.
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