Aarti Dhar

Powers to field commanders in Jammu and Kashmir, N-E to protect flora and fauna

National Wildlife Board meet to discuss proposalsSupply of diclofenac to be taken up at meet

NEW DELHI: Field Commanders in the Army, deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and the north-east for counter-insurgency operations, may soon be given legal powers that will authorise them to protect the flora and fauna. The legal powers, as those vested with the Chief Wildlife Wardens, will enable them to assist forest authorities in protecting wildlife.

A special ecological task force battalion will be raised to protect wildlife sanctuaries.

Keeping in mind the perceptible decline in the tiger population in the country, the Centre also proposes to raise a special force to protect the big cats. Disciplined and dedicated jawans, who retire between 35 and 40 years and have considerable experience of operating in the jungles, will be recruited. One battalion will be raised on an experimental basis to see how effective it is in checking poaching, biodegradation, denudation and theft of forest wealth.

The proposals will come up at the third meeting of the National Board for Wildlife to be held in here on June 19. Chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the meet will discuss follow-up of recommendations of the tiger task force, including setting up a national wildlife crime bureau for conservation of important wetlands, the Red Jungle Fowl and Asiatic lions.

Government organisations such as the Railways and the Army have large landholdings. The Ministry of Environment and Forests also proposes to fund these organisations to carry out awareness programmes and ecological projects for protection and conservation of forest wealth.

The meet will discuss the immediate withdrawal and purchase and supply of diclofenac to the animal husbandry and veterinary departments to save Gyps Vulture from extinction. The drug will be phased out in three months and research into viable alternative is being carried out at the Vulture Breeding Centre at Pinjore.