A conservation Bill that Endangers Forest Rights

Prelims level : National Conservation & Mitigation Mains level : GS-III Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental impact assessment.
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Why in News?

  • Recently, the Rajya Sabha passed the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022 which seeks to give effect to India’s obligations under the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (‘CITES’).  

What is the Objective of Bill?

  • Protection of Endangered Species: Bill seeks to enhance punishment for illegal Wildlife trade.
  • Better Management of Protected Areas: It provides for certain permitted activities like grazing or movement of livestock and Bonafide use of drinking and household water by local communities.
  • Protection of Forest Lands: It is so critical because it equally inculcates in itself the protection of rights of the people who have been residing there since ages.

What are the Proposed Amendments?

  • This amendment proposed a new schedule for species listed in the Appendices under CITES.
  • Section 6 has been amended to constitute Standing Committee to exercise such powers and duties as may be delegated to it by the State Board for Wildlife.
  • Section 43 of the act amended which permitted the use of elephants for ‘religious or any other purposes’. To enable the Central government to appoint a Management Authority Section 49E has been inserted.
  • To allow the Central Government to appoint a Scientific Authority to provide guidance on matters relating to the impact on the survival of the specimens on being traded.
  • The Bill also empowers Central government to regulate and stop the import, trade or possession of invasive plant or animal alien species.
  • The Bill also enhances the penalties prescribed for violation of provisions of the Act.
  • For ‘General violations’, maximum fine is increased from 25,000 to 1 lakh.
  • In case of Specially protected animals, the minimum fine of Rs. 10,000 has been enhanced to Rs. 25,000.

What are the Concerns Associated with the Bill?

  • Phrase “any other purpose” is vague and has potential of encouraging commercial trade of elephants.
  • Some important issues regarding Human-Wildlife conflict, Eco-sensitive zone rule, etc., has not been addressed.
  • According to the report provided by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, species listed in all three schedules of the Bill are incomplete.
  • The scientists, botanists, biologists are short in number and needed greater inclusion of them to accelerate the process of listing all existing species of wildlife.

What is the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972?

  • The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 provides a legal framework for the protection of various species of wild animals and plants, management of their habitats, regulation and control of trade in wild animals, plants and products made from them.
  • The act also lists schedules of plants and animals that are afforded various degrees of protection and monitoring by the government.

What is the CITES?

  • The CITES is an international agreement to which States and regional economic integration organizations adhere voluntarily.
  • CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • CITES entered into force in July 1975.
  • The CITES Secretariat is administered by UNEP (The United Nations Environment Programme) and is located at Geneva, Switzerland.
  • India is a signatory to the CITES.

What are the Constitutional Provisions for Wildlife Conservation?

  • The 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, Forests and Protection of Wild Animals and Birds was transferred from State to Concurrent List.
  • Article 51A(g) of the Constitution states that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests and Wildlife.
  • Article 48 A in the Directive Principles of State policy, mandates that the State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

Way Forward:

  • Strict enforcement of law is necessary for the conservation of the wildlife.
  • Businesses and corporations involved in real estate must adhere to the law rigorously to balance out their financial and muscle strength. Nicobar jungles are being completely ruined and removed for the benefit of some corporations.
  • So essentially, the wildlife is actually attacked not by humans but by the corporations.
  • Only having regulations and technological understanding are not sufficient, local communities must also realize the value of their engagement.
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