Nagaland to enact own forest conservation Act as per Art 371(A)

Kohima: The Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday passed a resolution to enact its own Act that will make the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act 2023 only applicable to the state subject to constitutional provisions under Art 371(A).

The resolution was adopted after minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, CL John moved an eleven-point resolution during the last day of the second session of the 14th NLA.

It was also resolved that the Government of India must assure that provisions contained in Section 1(A)(2) of the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act 2023 shall not be used to the detriment of the state and its people.

The 60-member legislative assembly further resolved to explore various options including the “state enacting its own Act for the purpose of having its own compensatory mechanism wherein any diversion of even private or community owned forest land for non-forestry purposes and damage to environment is suitably compensated by the user agency, in addition to availment of benefits of the existing schemes of the Central Government in this regard”.

The resolution stated that the Parliament of India enacted The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023, dealing with land and its resources (forests). It pointed that the amended Act inserted a new Section, namely, Section 1(A)(2) which exempted from the operation of the principal Act such forest lands situated within a distance of 100 kilometres along international borders, Line of Control or Actual Line of Control as the case may be, proposed to be used for construction of strategic linear project of national importance and concerning national security.

The exempted area of 100 kilometres from international borders will however cover most parts of Nagaland where the ownership of most of the forest lands vests with tribal communities.

As per a consultative meeting with various stakeholders on Act which was held on September 1, representatives of various Naga Tribal Hohos/Organisations expressed their strong objection to the application of Section 1(A)(2) of the Act in Nagaland.

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Oppositions were made on grounds that it was likely to infringe on traditional ownership and usage of forest lands and its resources in the state of Nagaland.

The house shared the view that the term ‘land and its resources’ mentioned in Article 371(A) include forest lands and its resources and that the application of Section 1(A)(2) of the amended Act to Nagaland would jeopardize the existing rights of tribal communities on their forest lands and its resources.

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