… The two Houses disagree on more than 30 provisions

Chhimi Dema 

The National Assembly referred more than 30 sections of the Forest and Nature Conservation Bill 2021 to the joint committee as disputed sections yesterday.

The House deliberated on the recommendations on the Bill received from the National Council on November 29.

The Forest and Nature Conservation Bill aims to protect the country’s flora and fauna while promoting ecologically-balanced development and allows the utilisation of forest produce through improved access and equity.

It is also expected to enhance the mitigation and adaptation capacity of forests to climate change and socio-economic activities.

Reporting on the NC’s recommendations on the Bill on December 1, the environment and climate change committee’s chair, Draagteng-Langthil MP Gyem Dorji, said that NC made 230 recommendations from which the committee could not agree to 39.

He said that the sections the committee agreed on were translations of Dzongkha terms with no changes in the meaning of the clauses.

During the re-deliberation in the NA, the Members of Parliament (MPs) agreed on nine sections from the 39 which the committee could not agree on.

The joint committee will discuss the thirty disputed sections of the Bill and deliberate during the joint session.

Some of the disputed sections are on the export of timber from dismantled structures; right to implement and execute any developmental activity in the community forests; prohibition of fishing using snare or trap; and declaration of protected areas and other management regimes among others.

Section 229 of the draft Bill states illegal fishing by use of poison, explosive or electrical device is a misdemeanour offence.

NA recommended changing the offence to “petty misdemeanour” which results in imprisonment for one month or more but less than one year. However, NC recommended fourth-degree felony offence if explosive is used, and a misdemeanour if poison or an electrical device is used.

Dramedtse Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said that going by NC’s recommendation on giving fourth-degree felony offence for using explosives, the defendant would be charged with two offences: one for using explosives during illegal fishing; and the other for possessing explosives.

He suggested that the House could take this provision for a joint committee meeting.

The definition of confiscation in the Bill is also a clause to be deliberated in a joint sitting. NC in its recommendation defined confiscation as “forfeiture of seized forest produce or goods” to the government as stated in the draft Bill. The NA recommended confiscation as forfeiture of seized forest produce or machinery and equipment.

The Forest and Nature Conservation Act, enacted in 1995, was not amended for more than two decades and it contradicts the Constitution, Penal Code, and legislations such as the Land, Mines and Minerals, and Water Acts.