The Meghalaya government started the consultation process on the draft amendments to the Indian Forest Act 1927 on Tuesday.
Meghalaya additional principal chief conservator of forest, M. B. K. Reddy presided over the consultation meeting at the head office of the forest department at Sylvan House conference hall.
The meeting was also attended by divisional forest officer T. Wanniang, who is in-charge of East Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts.
Officers from other departments and representatives of the Meghalaya Land and Forests Owners’ Association (MLFOA) also attended the meeting.
Reddy said that the consultation process would continue and the stakeholders have to submit their views and suggestions through the state forest department within two months.
“Lots of discussions are needed on the draft amendments and the state government will compile all views and suggestions received from various stakeholders and submit the same to the Centre,” Reddy said.
Reddy said that the amendments would not affect privately-owned forest land as well as provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India being applied to the state of Meghalaya.
Reddy said that according to the 2017 report of the survey of India, the forest cover of Meghalaya was around 76 per cent.
During the discussion, the representatives of the MLFOA pointed out that the Supreme Court in its recent judgment on coal mining in Meghalaya recognized that “private owners of the land as well as community owners have both the surface right as well as sub-soil rights.”
Most forests in Meghalaya are privately-owned.
The reserved forests owned by the state government constitute only around 5 per cent.
The three district councils are also managing some forest areas.