Parliamentary Panel for body to address human-animal conflict

Committee flags it as serious concern needing legislative backing

Published - April 21, 2022 08:13 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A wild buffalo spotted at Kuduremuk National Park. File

A wild buffalo spotted at Kuduremuk National Park. File | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

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 headed by Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh.

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 wildlife standing committee is usually a subset of members that reports to a wider Wildlife Board, in the case of States headed by the Chief Minister, and in charge of executing day-to-day matters.

While Standing Committee reports on Bills usually stick to criticism of text of the Bill, this report devoted space to the question of Human Animal conflict— a subject not mentioned in the proposed amendments — as it was “a complex issue as serious as hunting” and needed “legislative backing.”

The report recommends an HAC Advisory Committee to be headed by the Chief Wild Life Warden, who can consult the committee to act appropriately. “Such a committee with few members and in-depth technical knowledge for evolving effective site-specific plans/ mitigation strategies including recommendations on changing cropping patterns and for taking critical decisions at short notice, empowered under the law is necessary,” the report noted.

As The Hindu reported on April 14, 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.

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