National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031
In the first week of February 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) had come up with a draft third National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031. This plan was drafted by a 12 member committee chaired by JC Kala, a former secretary to the ministry. The draft contains detailed recommendations to be followed in the protected areas. Once approved, this plan will replace the second National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016). The first and second National Wildlife Action Plans were adopted in 1983 and 2002 respectively.
The key areas of focus of this plan is 17, which includes integration of climate change into wildlife planning, conservation of coastal and marine ecosystem, mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, focus on wildlife health among others.
The draft plan places special emphasis on rehabilitation of threatened species along with conserving their habitats like inland aquatic, coastal and marine ecosystems.
Protection of protected areas
Protection of protected areas includes ban on certain activities, regulation on tourism and law enforcement.
Ban on certain activities:
- Mining and big irrigation projects would not be permitted in protected areas and wildlife corridors.
- The plan asks the environment ministry to work with Ministry of Steel to bar mining activities in Protected Areas and wildlife corridors.
- Further, it wants proper rehabilitation of degraded and abandoned mining areas.
- It has classified sand mining as a highly destructive activity in which many stakeholders are involved including politicians.
- It wants Ministry of water resources to opt for minor irrigation projects instead of big irrigation projects in the protected areas. It has favoured the use of water harvesting units like ponds, check dams, wells etc.
- While the plan encourages tourism in wild life areas, it wants restrictions to be placed on the number of tourists and vehicles entering inside a protected area.
- It provides for the strict monitoring and regulation of the tourism activities.
- In case of any conflict between tourism and conservation interests of Protected Areas, the plan categorically favours the conservation interests of Protected Areas.
- It wants to add emphasis on tourism facilities which are sustainable, eco-friendly, clean and wholesome and moderately priced rather than lavish five star facilities.
- The draft calls for setting up of new regional forensic laboratories, a special Tiger protection force, special courts to deal with wildlife crimes such as poaching and smuggling.
- It has observed that the investigation of wildlife crime still lags behind despite the establishment of the National Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and has called for the capacity building of frontline guards and officers responsible for investigating wildlife crimes.
Critical Comment/ Shortcomings
Neglect of Wildlife living outside of the forests
In this draft, wildlife living outside the forest areas has been neglected. Wolves, great Indian bustards, hyenas, leopards, tigers, elephants among others are known to live outside of the forests. The draft is silent about the management of these populations.
Regulation of technology
The forest department makes use of drones and camera traps to monitor the protected areas. The draft has ignored the ethical and social consequences of the use of such technologies and has not come up with any framework for self regulation regarding the usage of such technological instruments. The fact that the use of drones and camera traps may violate the privacy of the local people living in protected areas is completely ignored.
Issue of feral dogs and cats
The draft plan is the first national policy which acknowledges the damages caused by the feral dogs and cats in the wildlife habitats. It simply states that the issue must be managed. Apart from that the draft is silent about the suggestive measures which need to be taken to address the issue.
Invasion of exotic species
The draft plan wants a national policy to check invasion of exotic species by 2018. But before drafting, it wants a complete inventory and mapping of species and area. Critics argue that preventing invasion of exotic species needs more attention and such efforts should begin immediately. The draft plan instead wants to do mapping first, which seems to be an excuse to delay implementation.
Duration of plan
It is viewed that implementing the same plan for conservation for 14 long years will make it ineffective. The plan period must be kept shorter to absorb the contemporary realities and scientific advances.