Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Wildlife Conservation- A seemingly never ending issue
Wildlife means all the flora and fauna, which are not domesticated by humans. It includes animals, plants and microorganisms.
First passed in 1972, the Wildlife (Protection) Act is the primary legislation protecting the country’s unique flora and fauna. The Act established schedules of protected animals and plants, outlawed hunting and harvesting of species, and set up a notification process for new wildlife preservation areas.
A holistic view of protecting and preserving our wildlife is missing:
When it comes to laws related to national conservation on wildlife, we have a focus on bigger animals, we talk about the tiger, lion, elephants, rhinocerous etc. But there is a huge biodiversity that exists beyond these animals that is never a talk of.
Ineffective implementation of laws:
In India we have the Wildlife Protection Act. There is a mechanism in place but that is hardly followed. While the law is criminal in nature, the conviction rates for poachers and traffickers remains low because of poor quality of evidence. Also the penalties imposed for crimes as serious as poaching is not enough to disincentivise it. Many of the officers don’t have adequate training in the law or are not sensitised to the seriousness of the wildlife crime.
Poor focus on smaller species:
The WPA, 1972 has six schedules. The animals in 6th schedule have been given maximum protection, but the number of species covered in this schedule are less. GSI under the Minister for Environment forests and climate change records large number of species every year but they remain confined to the records in the book. In order to provide protection in an efficient manner we have to bring those recorded species into the mainstream.
Focusing on larger number of smaller species is required. All species have to con-exist for a healthy ecosystem. A tiger can only exist when all other species of an ecosystem survives. If we have a focus on tiger, we should have an equally important focus on other species.
Lack of Awareness:
There is little awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation among the Indian citizens. This is more so true among the people living in remote areas. The violation of laws in the WPA 1972 is considered as a criminal act. But there is little awareness about the law. People don’t know whom to approach when a crime takes place.
The human-wildlife conflict has increased in the recent times. Reasons behind rising conflicts:
Rapid deforestation- It has become a biggest threat to wildlifehabitat and also has reduced the food base of the wild animals, forcing them to enter into agricultural fields.
Road Ecology-Rapid construction of roads disrupt natural migration and fragments habitats. Individual animals attempting to cross roads in order to migrate, find food or mates, or return to their breeding grounds are not always successful.
Mining and quarrying-is causing degradation of habitat in areas like the Aravalli Range and the Western Ghats.
All the above has resulted into fragmentation of wildlife habitat. Truth is that we have limited land mass and in this limited land mass we have to accommodate both human and wildlife population.
Tackling Man-Animal Conflict:
Discouraging Unplanned Urbanization:
Urbanization should take place in a planned way. Effort should be made to ensure that the wildlife habitats gets disrupted as little as possible,
Considering landscape in entirety:
Rather than protecting only the protected areas, the national sanctuaries or communities of the Biosphere Reserve we need to consider the landscape in entirety. This will help in not only reducing the man and animal conflict but the larger biodiversity will also be protected.
Maintaining road ecology:
Fragmented habitats should be reconnected by using over- or under passes that allow the safe movement of animals across roads. Fencing can also be used to direct animals to safer places to cross or prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions in areas of highest risk.
Wildlife Conservation- Steps required:
Wildlife Protection and enjoying wildlife should be made part of our ethos.
Increasing the level of awareness
Running awareness campaigns at the state, district and local level. Awareness among people who are not so educated who are living in remote areas is low because they don’t have access to any knowledge systems so we need to have campaigns through which they can learn, understand what is biodiversity, why do we need to protect them and about the importance of biodiversity in maintaining our agricultural ecosystems. Role of civil society in creating awareness especially in remote areas is immense.
Catching them young
In the school talk about environment and wildlife should be done more seriously. We need to actually take the children to the heart of biodiversity places so as to sensitise them. The school curriculum must include lessons on importance of wildlife and biodiversity and also steps required to conserve them.
Amending the WPA,1972:
The Wildlife Protection Act which is under Amendment for many years. It must be amended by incorporating provisions of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) and enhancing the penalties for offences such as poaching.
Protecting the Wildlife Corridors:
It vital to protect critical wildlife corridors. Large infrastructure projects that cut across well-known wild animal passages—such as the construction of a new highway, train line or power plant—must be sanctioned after thorough scrutiny.
Adopting landscape protection approach:
As sixty percent of the country’s wildlife exist outside these protected areas, GOI needs to have more of a landscape protection approach rather than just concentrating and focusing on the national parks and the protected areas.
We need to marry the question of biological diversity, its preservation, the protection of wildlife and healthy well being for human beings all together from the level of citizenry. Conservation is not a project, but a long-term commitment and relationship to a landscape. It’s not just based on science and laws, but has a strong grounding in society.A lot also depends on how human beings who are not in government react to the issue of wildlife. The quality of wildlife can be improved by not only protecting them but by ensuring that the citizens actually enjoy the wildlife as something that is their heritage
Connecting the dots:
How should a country of 1.2 billion people, one-third of the world’s poor, and roughly 7% of the world’s wildlife (including more than 100 varieties of endangered species) manage rapid development without irreparably damaging the delicate environment and ecosystem? Discuss.