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Poor awareness about Biodiversity Act among forest officials

B. Chandrashekhar
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Several unique species of flora-fauna fast approaching the state of extinction

In the ‘Red List’:The extent of red sanders, which is only found in the Seshachalam hill range in Andhra Pradesh, is getting depleted due to unabated smuggling to China and other countries.
In the ‘Red List’:The extent of red sanders, which is only found in the Seshachalam hill range in Andhra Pradesh, is getting depleted due to unabated smuggling to China and other countries.

At a time when the representatives of 193 countries have gathered here for mulling over the conservation of biodiversity for better future of the humanity and for symbiosis of all living creatures on planet earth, lack of awareness about the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 among the Forest Department officials is resulting in the indiscriminate poaching of the biodiversity wealth in the State.

Negligence of the act is costing the State dear as several unique species of the flora-fauna and other distinctive possessions such as the majestic Ongole breed bull and the dwarf cow breed from Punganur are fast approaching the state of extinction. The extent of Pterocarpus santalinus (Red Sanders or Red Sandalwood), which is only found in the Seshachalam hill range in the State, is depleting due to unabated smuggling to China and other countries.

Similarly, the Ongole bull and Punganur cow breeds were being smuggled to South American countries like Brazil and others.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has already placed red sanders in its “Red List” (the list of species on the verge of extinction).

Similar is the position of Ongole bull, Punganur cow and several other distinctive possessions of Andhra Pradesh, official sources stated.

Officials concerned, who did not want to be quoted, said their efforts to create awareness about the act among the Forest Department officials have not borne fruit due to their disinterest. “Unlike the previous Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and AP Forest Act, 1967 which allowed booking cases only in the forest areas, the Biodiversity Act enables the officials to book stringent cases against the poachers,” the official told The Hindu .

The Biodiversity Act has the provisions for imprisonment up to five years and fine up to Rs.10 lakh to those convicted under the Act.

Though the Act has come into being in 2002, no case was registered in the State till October 2011, when the first case was booked against three red sanders poachers in Badvel forest range in Kadapa district.

In all, 14 cases were registered during October 2011-June 2012 period, in which 9,106 kg of red sanders logs were seized, 13 vehicles confiscated and 38 persons arrested.

“It’s unfathomable as to why the officials are not booking cases under the Act which has non-bailable provisions,” another Forest Department official stated. All the cases were registered by Forest Range Officer S. Ashok Kumar when he was working at Badvel.

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