Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 5 Issue IV

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 5 Issue IV

Newsletter - April 2013 (2.1 MB, 999 downloads)

Wildlife Preservation: A few good pointers from the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s Judgment

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has rightly understood the survival challenges of the Asiatic Lion ( http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/indiawilds-newsletter-vol-2-issue-ii/ published in Feb 2010) and has allowed the relocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh to the joy of conservationists who are interested in the welfare of the lions. The judgment contains many of the facts and logic which we had espoused. It helped that the original researcher Dr. Ravi Chellam had spent considerable time in the court to help with his inputs. Our wildlife need many such champions!

The Hon’ble Supreme Court’s judgment is a landmark and is expected to make a paradigm change in conservation in India.

Asiatic Lion needs a second home away from Gujarat

Asiatic lion needs a second home away from Gujarat. Photo: Anand Madabhushi

 

National Board for Wildlife:

After the SC judgment the decisions taken in the NBWL assume great significance. Hence, the non-official or independent members of NBWL have a great responsibility so they should diligently study the agenda and issues and contribute towards the successful working of NBWL. Since most of the time these members are busy in their respective fields, in case, personal commitments results in the members not being able to give time, then they should give up their positions and cease to become members of NBWL. It is not only an honour but also a grave responsibility to the Nation.

However when we look at the working of the NBWL, we find that of late several projects have been hastily passed by the NBWL which impact our environment and wildlife. In those situations it has been found that the independent members hardly get time to go through the issues as the agenda and notes are sent hardly a day before the meeting. Also there have been allegations that the Hon’ble Minister has pushed through issues as accepted despite the protests of the members. In the recent judgment, the Supreme Court had noted that the decision to introduce the African Cheetah – an alien species in India was not routed through the NBWL. During the course of the arguments the Hon’ble Supreme Court had also noted that a decision is not unanimous and had asked for another view by the NBWL. So experts in the NBWL should take note of this part of the Supreme Court’s judgment where in it has said NBWL has a duty to promote conservation and development of wildlife and frame policies and advise the Central Government and the State Governments on the ways and importance of promoting wildlife conservation. It has to carry out/make assessment of various projects and activities on wildlife or its habitat. NBWL has also to review from time to time the progress in the field of wildlife conservation in the country and suggest measures for improving thereto.

So the NBWL members should remind the chairperson about the duties of the NBWL and always record a dissent note if they don’t agree on any issue. In reality, members often take to the media to voice their dissension openly or simply leaking the proceedings without their name. A duly recorded official dissent note can be invaluable when the issue comes up before the court.

The Hon’ble SC has also mentioned that ‘This Court, sitting in the jurisdiction, is not justified in taking a contrary view from that of NBWL. This is of great significance. When the Hon’ble Supreme Court is not taking a contrary view from that of NBWL, can the Hon’ble Minister for MoEF take contrary view and overrule the NBWL and pass destructive projects. It would be pertinent to mention that in the past, the Hon’ble Minister for Environment and Forests overruled the NBWL to allow mining in the dense forests of Chiria, which is a critical elephant corridor and is also home to mega carnivores.

After the SC judgment the decisions taken in the NBWL assume great significance. Hence, the non-official or independent members of NBWL have a great responsibility so they should diligently study the agenda and issues and contribute towards the successful working of NBWL. Since most of the time these members are busy in their respective fields, in case, personal commitments results in the members not being able to give time, then they should give up their positions and cease to become members of NBWL. It is not only an honour but also a grave responsibility to the Nation.

Development Vs Conservation Battle:

It is to be noted that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has cited the Convention on Biological Diversity in the judgment to note that conservation of biological diversity is an integral part of our development process. Conventions on Biological Diversity, signed in the year 1962 at Rio Summit, recognized for the first time in International Law that the conservation of biological diversity is a common concern of human kind and is an integral part of the development process.

Unfortunately, the present UPA Government as well as the Hon’ble Prime Minister has several times made statements blaming the lack of economic growth to the infrastructure projects not being given environment and forest clearance by MoEF. The Hon’ble PM wants our environment and forests to be sacrificed for the needs of our industries. He has even constituted a National Investment Board which will overrule the MoEF and expedite clearances. For more details on National Investment Board check here: http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/indiawilds-newsletter-vol-4-issue-x/

It is unfortunate that our planning is not taking into consideration the adverse ecological impact of our actions like deforestation, draining and drying wetlands, constructing dams and diverting flow of rivers, mining, , degradation of our fresh water resources, steep decline of the fertility of our soils, improper cropping patterns and their impact etc. India which was self-sustained in everything a mere century ago is now import dependent on virtually everything including various fruits and farm produce. In a knee jerk move, the Government is actively pushing for organized retail, rather than resolving the basic issues of production, storage and transport logistics. It is imperative that the Government has to take a holistic perspective and take into consideration the impact of our environment and forests before considering any move.

No Anthropocentric Approach:

Our approach towards wildlife preservation is flawed. Infact, instead of focusing on preservation, we talk of conservation, sustainability etc. This clearly views our environment and wildlife as a resource for humans. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has delivered a landmark judgment and has clearly defined that our view should not be anthropocentric but ecocentric. The judgement says “While giving effect to the various provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, the Centrally Sponsored Scheme 2009, the NWAP 2002-2016 our approach should be eco-centric and not anthropocentric.”

Sustainable development, it has been argued by various eminent environmentalists, clearly postulates an anthropocentric bias, least concerned with the rights of other species which live on this earth. Anthropocentrism is always human interest focused thinking that non-human has only instrumental value to humans, in other words, humans take precedence and human responsibilities to non-human are based benefits to humans. Ecocentrism is nature-centred, where humans are part of nature and non-humans have intrinsic value. In other words, human interest does not take automatic precedence and humans have obligations to non-humans independently of human interest. Ecocentrism is, therefore, life-centred, nature-centred where nature includes both humans and non-humans.

This clearly would become a paradigm shift as there have been too many destructive infrastructure projects like dams, canals, power plants, roads and sea route alignments which are approved on the basis of the already sunk cost ie. the already spent money in those projects. Henceforth, such projects cannot be pushed through. For example in the case of the Sethusamudram Project where the Government is arguing that they have already spent money in the project and the discussion is about the viability of the project (IRR ie. Internal rate of return not being good), this judgement will now focus on the plight of the seacows (dugongs) and other species in the Gulf of Mannar and it should stop the project. For more details on the Sethusamudram Project is here: http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/indiawilds-newsletter-vol-5-issue-iii/

If this principle would have been upheld then many destructive mining, port, road and other infrastructure projects would not have got permissions.

Statutory Status:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has further stated that “National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) 2002-2016 and the Centrally Sponsored Scheme 2009 relating to integrated development of wildlife habitats are schemes which have statutory status and as held in Lafarge case (supra) and have to be implemented in their letter and spirit.”

This is a very welcome judgement. The National Wildlife Action Plan 2002-2016 was created by the poet-Prime Minister Shri Vajpayee’s Government. Soon after his Government lost power and the UPA Government has virtually consigned the NWAP to the dustbins. With the Hon’ble Supreme Court now binding the Government to implement it, by virtue of giving it statutory status, I am sure the Government will be forced to act. Moreover, when the Hon’ble SC has said that it needs to be implemented in letter and spirit, it portends of a beautiful future, provided we check the progress of its implementation and be ready to knock the doors of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

There are several areas where immediate action can be taken based on the NWAP 2002-2016:

  • Need for realignment of roads, railways, shipping routes cutting across wildlife habitats.
  • Restoration of degraded habitats outside our protected area network with only native vegetation.
  • Document and assess damage done by large projects and intrusions, such as dams, mines, canal systems, roads and the use of pesticides and chemicals.
  • While strengthening protective measures against traditional threats to wildlife, we have to also respond to newer threats such as toxic chemicals, pesticides and invasive species.
  • Identification of wildlife corridors between important PAs harbouring endangered and long ranging species and recreating/strengthening them.
  • Wildlife monitoring and research is an important aspect and periodic studies and information dissemination to public in English and all local languages needs to be done.

 

Wildlife across state boundaries:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has stated “No state, organisation or person can claim ownership or possession over wild animals in the forest.”

So when there is a need to undertake a relocation of any species to augment the gene pool, the authorities are not constrained to only take animals from the same state. For example, after the Sariska debacle where all the tigers were poached, tigers were airlifted from Ranthambhore and reintroduced in Sariska. Unfortunately, even siblings were reintroduced, negating the purpose of creating a healthy gene pool. In such scenarios, a few tigers can also be relocated from Bandhavgarh or other places in Madhya Pradesh. Incidentally, there have been many instances of tigers branded as problem tigers/man eaters and shifted to the Bhopal zoo/Van Vihar. Relocation of those wild animals can be also be attempted, rather than introducing them in a zoo. Periodically, tigers and other species can be reintroduced from a different landscape to increase the gene pool diversity. In such situations, no state government can object to the relocation of a few animals from the protected areas located in their state.

What about the so called problem animals?

What about the animals whom we have branded as problem animals? No body wants to take ownership of them. A herd of elephants are mercilessly pushed back from West Bengal to Jharkhand and vice-versa and then to Odisha. No body wants them. They are shot at from country guns. Crackers are thrown at them, so is chilli powders and fire balls increasing their aggression. Clearly, relocation is not the solution in these situations, as elephants have a very strong homing instinct. These states are facing a development vs conservation battle as most of the wild landscapes are being fragmented, concretised and taken over either for housing, cultivation, mining or other projects. With the Hon’ble Supreme Court asking to take an eco-centric approach and implementation of the NWAP 2002-2016, steps have to be taken to create corridors between the protected areas, create inviolate places and relocate villages wherever necessary. Our wildlife does have a right to live. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has upheld that right and now the Government has to implement it.

 

India’s Conservation News:

SC asks Vedanta to apply permission from Gram Sabha:

Niyamagiri hill has got some respite, as the Hon’ble Supreme Court has directed Vedanta to seek permission from the Gram Sabha which will decide based on the religious and cultural importance attached to the Niyamgiri hills by the Dongria Kondha’s. For details on the Niyamagiri issue and all the news on it please check here: http://indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1993

Rhino Poaching: Use of Drones

The Rhino massacre continues in Kaziranga. Poachers have been using locally made silencers on their guns to kill Rhinos. The park authorities have now decided to try aerial surveillance by using remote controlled aircraft.
http://indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12126

Indian Railways Killing Machines: Tiger cub runover in Tadoba

http://indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12399

Supreme Court cancels 49 mining leases in Karnataka

As recommended by the Central Empowered committee the Hon’ble Supreme Court has cancelled 49 mining leases in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka.

http://indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12411

BP Oil spill: Dead dolphins and shrimps with no eyes

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12415

Six Lakh hectares of forestland cleared by UPA Govt. since 2004

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12416

 

Book Review:

Of Birds and Birdsong by M. Krishnan

http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/of-birds-and-birdsong-by-m-krishnan/

 

Natural History:

Draco Mating
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?p=60414

COUNTRY NOTEBOOK:Fond recollections: M.Krishnan:The Sunday Statesman 21-April-2013
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showpost.php?p=60413&postcount=55

 

Image of the Month:

Abhishek Jamalabad’s Flying Fish has been adjudged as the Image of the Month for March 2013

http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12407

 

Wildlife Photography:

Bottlenose dolphin pod by Abhishek Jamalabad
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12324

Smooth-coated Otters Kabini by Sucheth Lingachar
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12259

Jackal in GRK by Mrudul Godbole
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12153

Tiger Portrait
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12123

Curious Owlets by Bibhav Behera
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12215

After bath Oriental White eye by Jitendra Katre
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12204

Pondskater by Jobymon Cherayil Prakash
http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12207

 

I look forward to your inputs and support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in our beautiful country. For other interesting articles and images check – http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/

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Regards,
Sabyasachi Patra

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The Supreme Court judgement can be downloaded below –
Icon of Supreme Court Judgement Supreme Court Judgement (370.7 KB)

Sabyasachi Patra
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Sabyasachi Patra

Sabyasachi is an award winning Cinematographer and shoots for international broadcasters, feature films and corporates to make a living. He is a passionate wildlife filmmaker and photographer and has won awards and accolades for his documentary 'A Call in the Rainforest'. He has been striving to make his films and photographs full of life and emotion and write articles to educate and evangelise the need for conserving the last tracts of vanishing wilderness and wildlife in our country. He hopes that his wildlife films, photographs and writings force people to pause, look, ponder and ultimately take action.
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