The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 came in to force with effect from October 25, 1980. Under the provisions of this Act, prior approval of the Central Government is essential for diversion of forest lands for the non-forestry purposes. In the national interest and in the interest of future generations, this Act, therefore, regulates the diversion of forest lands to non forestry purposes. The basic objective of the Act is, to regulate the indiscriminate diversion of forest lands for non forestry uses and to maintain a logical balance between the developmental needs of the country and the conservation of natural heritage. The, guidelines have been issued under the Act from time to time, to simplify the procedures, to cut down delays and to make the Act more user friendly. To ensure this, recently, new rules under this Act have been framed and notified on 10/1/2003 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The Act has succeeded in controlling the indiscriminate release of forest land for non forestry purposes. Prior to 1980, the rate of diversion of forest lands for non forestry purposes was about 1.43 lakh ha. per annum. But, with the advent of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the rate of diversion of forest lands has come down to around 15000 ha. per annum and mostly diversion of forest land is allowed to meet the developmental needs for Drinking water projects, Irrigation projects, Transmission lines, Railway lines, Roads, Power projects, Defense related projects, Mining etc. For such diversions of forest lands for non forestry purposes, compensatory afforestation is stipulated and catchment area treatment plan, wildlife habitat improvement plan, rehabilitation plan etc. are being implemented, to mitigate the ill effects of diversion of such vast area of green forests. To monitor the effective implementation of the compensatory afforestation in the country, an authority named as “Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)” is being constituted at the national level. A monitoring cell is also being set up in the Ministry of Environment & Forests to monitor the movement of proposals at various stages and the compliance of the conditions stipulated in the forestry clearances by the user agencies.