|The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) provide that in case a project involves forest land, the project proponent shall first explore feasibility to execute the project without use of forest land. In case it is not feasible to undertake the project without use of forest land, the project proponent shall submit application seeking prior approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of forest land before submitting the application for grant of Terms of Reference as per the procedure stipulated in the EIA Notification 2006. The Environment clearance to such projects, as per the said guidelines is to be issued only after stage-I approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of forest land required for its execution is obtained. The Ministry received representations from various stakeholders to delink grant of environmental clearance from forest clearance in case of linear projects such as roads, transmission lines, pipelines, etc. involving patches of forest land along their alignment, often stretching to several hundred kilometers in view of the operational problem being faced by them in execution of such projects. This was stated by Shrimati Jayanthi Natarajan Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment and Forests, in the Rajya Sabha today, in a written reply to a question by Shri Dilipbhai Pandya.|
The Minister further stated that The Honíble Supreme Court has allowed the MoEF to relax the said guidelines to issue Environment Clearance (with suitable safeguards) to linear projects such as roads, pipelines etc., pending grant of stage-I approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for non-forest use of forest land required for execution of such linear projects. While revising the guidelines for such projects, appropriate safeguards will be stipulated to ensure that there is no adverse impact on environment on account of such relaxation.
Section 2 of the F(C) Act, 1980 inter alia provides that notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force in a State, no State Government or other authority shall make, except with the prior approval of the Central Government, any order directing any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose.
Approvals under the F(C) Act, 1980 for diversion of forest land are accorded in accordance with the procedure stipulated in the F(C) Act, 1980, the F(C) Rules, 2003 and the guidelines issued thereunder. Such approvals are accorded only if the diversion of forest land is unavoidable and the area proposed to be diverted is bare-minimum, after examining all feasible alternatives, the Minister added.