Chhimi Dema

The National Council adopted the Forest and Nature Conservation Bill 2021 yesterday.

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

It also enhances the mitigation and adaption capacity of forest to climate change and socio-economic activities.

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.

Natural resources and environment committee’s chair, Dorji Khandu, said, “The Bill aligns and harmonises with existing legislations of the country and international commitments.”

He said that the Bill outlines clear procedures and authorities of forest officials, streamlines procedures related to criminal offences and addresses public grievances such as inadequate allocation of timber and human-wildlife conflict among others.

The Bill specifies the power and functions of the agriculture ministry and gives investigation and enforcement powers to the forest officials, he added.

The Bill has a provision on human-wildlife conflict management measures where the government would institutionalise appropriate measures “with compensation” to address the loss of life or causing permanent disability to human or damage to property, crop and livestock by wildlife.

The Bill also includes provisions for the promotion of nature recreation and ecotourism in State Reserved Forest Land.

Trongsa MP Tashi Samdrup said that the Bill aims for sustainable use of forest produce for perpetuity.

He said that the Bill could help in keeping the country’s forest coverage at 60 percent as enshrined in the Constitution.

The Bill was referred to the National Assembly for deliberations.