An array of projects pending for months for approval

The National Board of Wildlife is ready to be notified after the government revised the names of non-government officials and organisations on board the apex body which is chaired by the Prime Minister.

The board (NBWL), a statutory body under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, is supposed to oversee implementation of the law and the wildlife policy. A sub-set of the board, the standing committee, chaired by the environment minister and comprising of several non-government members and officers, is required under Supreme Court orders to appraise all projects falling within protected wildlife areas or within 10 kilometres distance of any such zones.

The non-government members are nominated on to the board and it has always been considered a coveted position by some conservationists and naturalists.

The tenure of the last board had lapsed in September 2013 and it had been pending renomination while an array of projects got queued up for clearance for the board's standing committee, including some coal projects. The PMO has been pushing hard since 2012 that the standing committee meet at least once a month to appraise projects regularly.

Even as the board's creation remained stuck, the ministry moved to reduce the size of the legally protected area around wildlife zones to avoid seeking clearance for the board's standing committee for hydroelectric projects in Sikkim.

Several projects in wildlife areas had been objected to by the last wildlife board which also asked for serious reforms in the way the board and the standing committee functioned. With the standing committee's views being recommendatory and not the final word the non-government members several times were over-ruled or their agenda not followed upon by the ministry.

After Mr Veerrapa Moily took over, the setting up of the new board ran in to rough weather when the first list was recommended by the ministry and approved by the PMO, sources in the government told The Hindu. A demand arose for revising it.

Out of those nominated in the first PMO-approved list, Kalpvriksh, Ravi Chellam, P R Sinha, Sanjay Gubbi, Erach Barucha and Vivek Menon, Centre for Ecological Studies and Asad Rehmani have now been dropped. The names of Valmik Thapar, B K Talukdar, Koustubh Sharma, Biswajit Mohanty,Shekar Dattatri and Bittu Sehgal have found place on the new list along with that of Green Life Society, Raman Sukumar and Bombay Natural History Society.

M K Ranjitsinh, K Ullas Karanth, WWF, Brijendra Singh and the Nature Conservation Foundation continue to be on the revised approved list as well. The Parliament Members on board the revised approved list includes Jyoti Mirdha, Dushyant Singh and M S Gill.

Sources in the government said the PMO had approved the revised list too and sent it to the environment ministry for notification. When asked for the reasons behind revision of the approved list of members on board the NBWL, the minister's office informed The Hindu, that it “Was not competent to comment on the matter and that the minister was not in Delhi till March 4.”

The formal notification of the board and its standing committee is likely to be soon followed up by an early meeting of the latter to clear the pending projects.

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