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“This article is written by Nehal Kharyal, from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (VIPS). This is an exhaustive article that describes The Forest Conservation Act,1980, and its flaws.”


Forests are useful for various purposes as they provide food, shelter, wood, they also maintain ecosystems, etc. Almost 40% of the world’s land is covered with the forest. They are natural renewable resources. But, due to the inhuman activities or we can say human greed, there has been a significant reduction in the forest land throughout the world which is raising concern. Now it’s high time to conserve these forests.

Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was enacted by Parliament of India to control the deforestation of the forest areas in India. This Act came into force on 25th October 1980 and the Act was further amended in 1988. Now, this Act applies to the whole of India after waiving the special rights which were granted to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

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Various provisions for forest conservation

The Constitution of India has introduced a new Directive Principle of State Policy under Article 48-A and Fundamental Duty under Article 51A(g) to protect and preserve the environment and the forest.

  • Article 48-A: Under this article, it is defined that the State must protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. 
  • Article 51A(g): This article states that it’s not the duty of the State only but also the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment which includes forests, lakes, rivers, wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.

Besides the constitutional provision, the first legislation on the Forest Conservation was the Indian Forest Act, 1865 which was later repealed and replaced by The Indian Forest Act, 1927. The main purpose of this Act is to put a restriction on the de-reservation of forests and also to restrict the use of forest-land for non-forest purposes.

The Forest Conservation Act, 1980

Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was enacted by Parliament of India to control the deforestation of the forest areas in India. This Act came into force on 25th October 1980 and the Act was further amended in 1988. Now, this Act applies to the whole of India after waiving the special rights which were granted to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

Salient features

Under this Act, Section 2 makes a provision of taking prior approval by the state government or any other authority from the central government before issuing any direction for de-reservation of the forest, use of forest land for non-forest purpose, signing of forest land by the way of lease or to any private person or any other authority, etc. However, this Act also gives power to the government and forest department to create reserve forest and the power to use these forests as alone by the government. It also created the protected forest, a forest in which the use of resources by the local people was controlled. There were some forests which were also controlled by the village community and these forests were called Village Forests. In 1992, some amendment was made in this Act which made provisions for allowing some non-forest activities in forests, without cutting trees or limited cutting with prior approval of the Central Government.

Restriction on the de-reservation of forests

The main purpose behind this Act is to deal with a restriction on the de-reservation of forests or the use of forest-land for non-forest purposes. As it is earlier mentioned that Section 2 of the Act states that the state government or any other authority has to take prior permission from the Central government before issuing any direction related to de-reservation of a forest, use of forest land for non-forest purpose etc., it further mentions- 

  • That any reserved forest declared under any law for the time being in force in that State or any portion, shall cease to be reserved.
  • That any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose.
  • That any forest land or any portion may be cleared of trees which have grown naturally in that land or portion, to use it for re-afforestation.

Here, the term ‘non-forest purpose’ refers to breaking of the forest land or portion of forest land for the cultivation of tea, coffee, rubber, palm, medicinal plants, or for any purposes other than re-afforestation.

Rulemaking power

Power to make rules under this Act is placed with the Central Government. However, it has to be kept before both houses of the parliament for 30 days.


A decision from any of the authorities under this Act is appealable and the same shall lie to the National Green Tribunal. An appeal may be filled by any such aggrieved person.


Section 3A of this Act states that whosoever contravenes or abets any of the provisions of Section 2 of this Act shall be punished with simple imprisonment, which may extend up to fifteen days.

Objects and reasons of the Forest Conservation Act

The main reason for having this Act is to protect and conserve the trees so that they can support the wildlife and save the habitat of many other animals. There are other objects and reasons for having The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and those are as follows-

  • The main reason is to keep an eye on the deforestation and degradation of natural renewable resources i.e. forests.
  • To provide forest dwellers sources like food, fuel, building material etc at subsidized rates. 
  • To modify the working plans into environmental friendly plans.
  • To maintain or to conserve the integrity, territory, and individuality of the forest.
  • To protect the conservation of forest into agriculture land, grazing land, building of business and residential units.
  • To prevent biodiversity.
  • To preserve the ecological components and to prevent the depletion of flora and fauna.
  • To restrict the hunting and trapping of wildlife.
  • To grant special permission for hunting of wildlife for scientific research.

Issues involved in the enforcement of the Act

Despite several environmental legislation and Acts, many rivers and lakes continue to be choked with industrial waste and sewage. Air quality is getting worse day by day. Deforestation and protection of wildlife are still not taking place despite the enforcement of various acts. To overcome these problems, people must be guided by how it’s important to prevent or preserve the environment as a whole, our health, and earth resources. To improve the condition, the implementation of environmental legislation must be done properly. This can be achieved by establishing a relevant agency that collects the relevant data, processes it and passes it to the law enforcement agency. However, if anyone, be an individual or institution, who breaks any rule or law, then he or she must be punished according to the procedure established by the law. 

There are several legislative and administrative measures which have been taken by the government. Apart from this, there are also others efforts which have been made in order to share the cost of an anti-pollution measure taken by the industries to avoid state-sponsored expensive and lengthy legal battles or we can say that it is done so that every citizen must think before playing with an environment and he/she must take care of the same. But the reason why we are not able to achieve these things is the implementation of the policies which are not taking place properly. The enforcement agencies find it difficult to impose regulatory standards on the industries and other polluters. The number of the problems which are faced by the enforcing agencies are as follows-

  • Lack of manpower in the regulatory agencies as compared with the increasing rate of industries.
  • Lack of technical knowledge which is required to enforce the regulations.
  • An increasing rate of corruption.
  • Lack of financial resources.
  • Lack of dedicated staff.
  • Resistance to change.

Granted, the natural world is not a mess; the importance of development has sometimes been at odds with those of the environment; management equipment used to solve environmental problems often fails in its work; rules designed to meet this challenge are often applied. But this is the fall of a nation that is at war with hundreds of problems for hundreds of thousands. The survival war and where the sad state of the world is in the world first gets a higher will. The government and, most importantly, people have shown it very well. What you need is a matter of skills and experience, which we seem to be gaining slowly but steadily.

Drawbacks in the present legislation

As mentioned earlier, this Act contains all types of forests which are reserve forests, protected forests and village forests. The Act contains several provisions to control deforestation and to encourage afforestation of non-forest areas. The National Forest Policy, 1980 prohibits the state government to declare any portion of the state as non-reserve without prior permission from the Central Government. The amended Act in 1988 prohibited the lease of the forest to anybody other than the government. This step of the government helps to increase the forest cover to an average of thirty percent. However, every coin has two sides. Similarly, this Act does have its drawbacks and those are-

  • The Act has transferred the power from the state to the central government which means that the power is centralized at the top.
  • The Act has also failed to attract public support because it has infringed the human rights of poor native people.
  • Very less participation of the poor community leads to the ineffectiveness of this Act.
  • Forest dwellers and tribal communities have rich knowledge about forest resources but their contribution is never acknowledged.

Public awareness

Public awareness campaigns can be considered to be one of the most important sources to raise environment-related issues in our country. This can be done with the help of electronic media, the press, school and college education, and adult education which are complementary to each other. Several programs have been made for forest conservation in India. These programs are made for the whole of India but it reaches only certain areas. One of the reasons may be the lack of cooperation of people or lack of dedicated staff.

Reasons for increasing public awareness for forest conservation are

  • The first reason is to create awareness among the general public about environmental problems.
  • To show people why it is important to conserve forests and to motivate them for the same.
  • To promote understanding among the foresters.
  • To preserve knowledge and culture that is friendly to the environment.


Measures to be adopted

Forest resources are considered to be one of the most important resources as it is an integral part of the ecosystem and it also provides shelter to wildlife. Today forests provide raw material for over 5,000 products worth 23 million dollars. The history of the exploitation of forests is as old as man himself. Earlier the forest cutting was done for personal or for community purpose only but with the expansion of agriculture, forest land has been cleared. There are several steps which should be taken to conserve forests and some of them are as follows:

  • Control over forest fire: The destruction of forest by fire is a common, reason being that the trees are highly exposed to fire. In some of the cases, as we see fire starts due to natural processes like lightning, fiction between trees due to high-speed winds while in most cases fire is started by man either intentionally or unintentionally. To save forests, the latest techniques of firefighting must be adopted. There must be proper arrangement of water sprays, chemical retardants by helicopters if possible, trained staff of firefighters, etc.

  • Reforestation and afforestation: It is always advisable that whenever the forest land is destroyed or mining activities take place then it must be reforested. Besides this, a fresh program of afforestation must also be started as new plantations help in making up the ecological balance. 

  • Protection of the forest: Forest must be protected to maintain the ecological balance. Despite commercial cutting and unorganized grazing, several other forest diseases like rust, fungi, etc must also be taken care of as it destroys trees.


It can be concluded that the population is steadily rising as the death rate has dropped due to advances in the field of medical science. However, the birth rate has also risen. Therefore, in the modern era, we must ensure that the conservation of the forest is provided with the utmost attention and effort to keep our land prosperous and nourishing for future generations. Deforestation at the same rate will continue to make many species of living things – common today – end soon. Not only this, but resources such as wood, oxygen, and more will run out very quickly. Therefore, “saving the forests” should be a very common idea and a promotional idea at the moment.


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