On 25th August, the Mizoram Assembly adopted an official resolution opposing the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill 2023. The Bill had received the President’s assent on 4th August after it was passed without any discussion in either house of parliament. It will become an act once it is notified in the gazette.
According to news reports, the resolution opposing the Bill, presented by Mizoram’s Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change went through extensive discussion in the Assembly. It received overwhelming support, with only one member – a BJP MLA – dissenting.
Moving the resolution, the Minister emphasised the “need to protect the rights and interests of the people of Mizoram”. He said that the state government had been expressing its opposition to the amendment Bill since the very beginning. It had communicated its concerns through letters to the Centre and the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on multiple occasions. However, despite receiving 1,309 protest letters and communications, the JPC proceeded with the Bill’s approval, leading to its passage in both the Houses of parliament.
Mizoram is one of the states in the north east of India that shares a long border with Myanmar on the east and with Bangladesh on the west. According to the latest amendments to the Forest Conservation Act (1980), all forest land lying within a distance of 100 Km of the international border are outside of the purview of the Act. Such forest lands can be used by the Central government for strategic projects by simply citing national security concerns. There will be no need to take the consent of the affected people who would be displaced as a result of such projects. While moving the resolution opposing the Bill, the minister highlighted the potential threat to the state’s forest cover. He pointed out that the amended Forest Conservation Act can “completely wipe out” Mizoram’s forest cover.
The Mizoram Assembly has categorically stated that “This provision is strongly objected to and not acceptable.” Other states in the region like Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim have also opposed the 100 km exemption clause.