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Odisha's 'Deemed Forests' Order Withdrawal Sparks Controvers



  Aug 21, 2023

Controversial Withdrawal of 'Deemed Forests' Order in Odisha


What was the controversial order issued by the Odisha government?

The Odisha government issued an order on August 11, which stated that the category of 'deemed forests' would cease to exist under the amended Forest Act.
 

What is meant by 'deemed forests'?

'Deemed forests' are areas that have not been officially classified as forests by the government in their records. These areas are identified based on their conformity to the dictionary meaning of forests, irrespective of ownership.
 

What was the purpose of the 1996 Supreme Court judgment?

The 1996 Supreme Court judgment in the Godavarman case mandated states to identify lands that met the definition of forests and extend forest protections to them, regardless of ownership.
 

What does the updated Forest Act stipulate?

The updated Forest Act, recently passed by Parliament, specifies that only forests classified and recorded as such after 1980 would receive protection. Forest lands diverted for non-forestry purposes between 1980 and 1996 would not be protected.
 

How did the Environment Ministry respond to the amendments?

The Environment Ministry clarified to a Joint Parliamentary Committee that the amendments were in accordance with the 1996 Supreme Court judgment. The Act's provisions would apply to forest lands or 'deemed forest lands' identified by State Expert Committees.
 

Why was the Odisha government's order withdrawn?

The Odisha government withdrew the order amidst controversy and discussions. However, specific reasons for the withdrawal have not been provided.
 

What impact did the order have in Odisha?

The Odisha government had identified nearly 66 lakh acres as 'deemed forests' at the district level since 1996. However, many of these areas were not officially notified as such in government records, leading to debates about forest protection and land classification


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