Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Steep Increase in Penalties for Contravention of Wildlife Protection Act
Incentives to States for Protection of Biodiversity and Habitats
Wildlife Conservation and Wildlife management is fundamentally important to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Ministry is taking two new initiatives as part of the amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act. Inaugurating a two day workshop on Media and Wildlife Conservation hear today, Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests (I/C) Shri Jairam Ramesh said one of the important initiative is to rethink about the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. He informed the amendments have been circulated to the state governments and stake holders. They will be put on the website soon to get public comments. The minister expressed the hope to introduce these comprehensive amendments in the budget session of 2010. Shri Ramesh acknowledged very useful and constructive contributions from emeritus curie of Supreme Court, Shri Harish Salve and Ms Belinda Wright in formulation of these amendments.
The Minister talked about the new idea of steep increase in the penalties for contravention of wildlife protection Act. He said as of today the penalties are laughable, and the time has come for us to send the strong message that those who break the Wildlife Protection Act should be treated on par at those who break the Foreign Exchange Act, Money Laundering Act or any such important legislation. We must build the same provision in Wildlife Protection Act, Shri Ramesh added.
Talking about the second new initiative he said there is need to provide a transparent, rule based system which will enable the modern science to coexist with wildlife management. He said steps will be taken to improve or increase the space available to wildlife researchers and conservation biologists to carry out their scientific work in wildlife areas. He appealed not to look at conservation biologists as enemies of Wildlife Management Wildlife Conservation. A good interaction between the research community and wildlife managers is essential. Acknowledging a large number of professionally very well qualified conservation biologists in the country, Shri Ramesh said they are out of the main stream of wildlife field. He said a legal frame work will be provided that will enable these new generation of conservation biologists and researchers to carry foreword the scientific work in the wildlife interest.
Disclosing the second main initiative he remembered Late Prime Minister Indira gandhi’s action regarding transformation in the wildlife management system. Late Smt Indira Gandhi in 1972 wrote to the then Agriculture Minister, as forests were under Agriculture Ministry, to form a separate wildlife cadre. The Minister informed about series of consultations with wildlife experts are going on after which a separate, specialization stream of wildlife management within the Indian Forests Service will be introduced. Flexibility will have to be maintained. Today the wildlife management is not the preferred option, but Wildlife specialization will be added in the Indian Forest Service. Over a period of time, he added. Talking about provision of lateral entry into this specialized stream, he explained lateral entry is very important to renew a cadre.
About Project Tiger, he said one of the problems in wildlife management is from the state governments. Many Chief Ministers have asked for incentives to participate in wildlife management to maintain biodiversity corridors and habitats. As the pace of development increases, the pressures will also increase. In such situations, we have to think differently how to make state partner in this process and need to give some incentives to the states. For this Extended Tiger Habitat Management will be adopted where the core area and the buffer area will be kept as they are, but in the non-forest fringe areas around National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Project Tiger Areas enhanced productivity into livelihood security and in diversified occupations will be gained. The State Governments will be stake holders in the process. Giving the example of successful rehabilitation and relocation of 1300 families at Rajaji National Park,the Minister said the villagers return repeatedly to the park as the areas in which they have been relocated are not sustainable from livelihood point of view. Taking help from the World Bank, Shri Ramesh said they will help us in non-forest fringe areas to enhance the activity of land, to diversify occupation, structures, creating centers for people to have sustainable livelihoods etc. He made it very clear that this money will not come to forest departments but it will go to state governments. All the States will feel as stake holders and partners in management of habitat.
The ministry will start one project in Uttarakhand centered around Corbett Park and second will be in Satpura, Maharashtra. A concept paper will be prepared soon an will be discussed with members of National Tiger Conservation Authority. Talking about 38 project Tiger Reserves in the country, he said 12 of them are in good condition and 9 are in satisfactory condition. But 17 Tiger Reserves are in very precarious state. “We could have Panna or Sariska Tiger reserve situation in any of these 17 reserves at any point of time. We constituted experts team for these 17 Project Tiger Reserves and received reports from them. We are taking each of these reserves to know what the problems are there and what we can do to solve these problems” , he said.
Simlipal is facing a variety of threats including the naxlite/maoist threat. Palamu in Jharkhand, Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh, Indravati in Chhattisgarh, Valmiki in Bihar are all endangered project tiger areas. With this intervention, the Ministry will be able to make substantial difference.
Referring to river linking and coal mines projects, the ministry will not compromise ecological security in the name of development, he said.
Earlier releasing India’s Green Book, the Minister congratulated Mr Sinha, Director, Wildlife Institute of India and said it is truly outstanding for forests and environment management. This will be a great source of information to not only to the people of media but also to the public at large, parliamentarians, and it will contribute to raise awareness for wildlife and forestry division.
The two day workshop will sensitize media persons on various issues relating to wildlife conservation.
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