Latest UpdatesNature & EnvironmentWildlife Protection Act Amendment: Communities to manage forests & wildlife

Wildlife Protection Act Amendment: Communities to manage forests & wildlife

 A new phase coming in for Indian conservation  

The Wildlife Protection Act is being amended. The Union Ministry for Environment Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC) wants to add tougher penalties for breaches of this legislation. It will provide a larger role for Eco-Development Committees (EDCs), which serve for kind of joint management of forest resources between the forest department and local people living in the fringes of protected areas. 

This Act was promulgated in 1972, scripted by the then India’s Director, Wildlife, Dr. MK Ranjitsinhji. The Ministry has generally remained under fire from conservationists’ lobby owing to its tardy approach to implement rules. In fact, role of forest officers, belonging to Indian Forest services, has been questioned. It is they who implement conservation initiatives in all states.  

Wildlife Protection Act Amendment: Communities to manage forests & wildlife
Dr. MK Ranjitsinji addressing a Ministry meeting on Great Indian Bustard at WWF-India office in New Delhi (Photo by Harsh Vardhan)

Dr. Ranjtsinhji has remarked in an email dialogue with some conservationists that “Bureaucrats of my ilk are mere pawns in that power game. It is we who show the politicians the way to subvert the welfare of forests, because we know the system better. We don’t deserve to be called foresters and forest secretaries, but personal assistants of politicians.” 

The Forest Rights Act is a major factor. What next? 

Dr. Ranjitsinhji suggests, “Firstly, scrap MoEFCC and all state forest departments. Forests should be handled by the respective Ministry/Departments of Tribal Welfare.

Secondly, scrap the All India Forest Service. Revert back to the state service as it was till the 1960s. A state service forest officer will be placed to serve each Gram and Zila Panchayat, because that is where the decision making will be.” 

Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Madhya Pradesh, HS Pabla adds:  “I think any amendments to any of the forest laws are useless unless we align them with the Forest Rights Act, 2006. As all the reserve forests and Protected Areas are likely to be claimed by communities as community forest resources sooner or later, it will be up to them to decide whether to manage them as Protected Areas or as something else.”  

About Dr Ranjitsinhji

Dr. Ranjitsinhji is a conservation luminary. His knowledge on wild species is second to none. He  defended the cause of Great Indian Bustard and now working on bringing the Cheetah in to India. His wish to ensure both species flourish in India’s wild, looks like getting fulfilled.  He is being heard so the Act’s new ‘avtaar’ should have his re-branding. To this author, he sent a one-line suggestion, “grow old with me…the best is yet to be!” 

Halcyon days again for conservation in India? Is it? 

(Please see: The feature photo is a rare photo like that of the Cheetah with a Caracal in a corner, and on a charpoy. )

Says Harsh Vardhan, a renowned environmentalist, “This photo is from my collection obtained from former Director of City Palace Museum (my good friend, Yaduendra Sahai, who is no more) who received it from Oodey Ram Ram Chander, a photography shop on MI Road, now extinct, and dated 1890). The picture reflects how Cheetah and Caracal were maintained in Jaipur through families as patronized by princes……record for wild species at home. He says, “I could not succeed in tracing out the house no. of this owner so far.

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