Parliamentary Panel for body to address human-animal conflict
Part of: Prelims and GS-III: Conservation
Context: The Environment Ministry must constitute an advisory body of experts to tackle growing instances of human-animal conflict, according to a report by the Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change.
The report analyses the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 tabled in the Lok Sabha in December 2021.
- The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 provides a legal framework for the protection of various species of wild animals and plants, management of their habitat and the regulation and control of trade in wild animals, plants and their parts and products.
- While it has been amended several times, the latest set of proposed amendments by the Environment Ministry were to make it more compliant to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which India is a signatory. CITES regulates international trade in over 38,700 species of wild animals and plants.
- One of the clauses proposed by the Ministry was to have a Standing Committee of the State Board for Wild Life (SBWL) to make the functioning of the body “more purposive”.
- But the report points out that several independent experts and bodies had expressed their concern that such a body would be packed with official members, exercise all powers of the SBWL and take decisions independent of the SBWL itself and “end up being a rubber stamp for faster clearances of projects.
- The report instead suggests that were such a body to be constituted, it should have at least one-third of the non-official members of the SBWL, at least three institutional members and the Director of the Wildlife Institute of India or his/ her nominee.
- A HAC Advisory Committee to be headed by the Chief Wild Life Warden, who can consult the committee to act appropriately.
- The Committee also urged the government to remove a controversial clause in the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 that allows the “transfer and transport” of live elephants while recommending that the government could bring in additional checks to allow sale and purchase by religious institutions.
Reasons for man-animal conflict:
- Expansion of human settlements into forests – expansion of cities, industrial areas, railway/road infrastructure, tourism etc.
- Allowing livestock to graze in forest areas
- Land-use transformations such as the change from protected forest patches to agricultural and horticultural lands and monoculture plantations are further destroying the habitats of wildlife.
- Unscientific structures and practices of forest management in the country
- Infestation of wildlife habitats by invasive exotic weeds leads to decreased availability of edible grasses for wild herbivores
- Decreased prey base caused by poaching of herbivores has also resulted in carnivores moving out of forests in search of prey and to indulge in cattle lifting.
- Due to uncontrolled mining activity, the stressed elephants are angry and enter villages in search of food, killing locals in the process. Every mining proposal in dense forests that are elephant habitats and feeding grounds has been cleared by the department.
- It came into force in July 1975 and currently has 183 signatories
- Aim: Ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
- The CITES Secretariat is administered by UNEP and is located at Geneva, Switzerland.
- Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties, it does not take the place of national laws. Rather, it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.
- The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), a consortium of the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, World Bank and the World Customs Organization has been established to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.
Must Read: No Wild, No Life