Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill 2021

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    • Recently, the Lok Sabha passed the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill-2021 that seeks to provide for the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
      • It seeks to amend the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

    Major highlights of the bill 

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    • CITES
      • The bill aims to implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and expand the number of species protected by the convention.
      • CITES is a convention that requires countries to regulate the trade of all listed specimens through permits and regulate the possession of live animal specimens so it does not threaten the survival of the species.
    • Rationalising schedules
      • The previous Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 had six schedules for specially protected plants (one), specially protected animals (four), and one vermin species (small animals that carry disease and destroy food).
      • The amended bill reduces the total number of schedules to four by eliminating the schedule for vermin species and reducing the number of schedules for specially protected animals to two. 
      • It also inserts a new schedule for specimens listed under CITES.
    • Export or import licences
      • The Bill provides for the central government to designate an authority which grants export or import licences for the trading in specimens. 
      • Anyone who trades in a scheduled specimen must inform the appropriate authority of the transaction’s specifics.
    • Live specimens of scheduled animals
      • People possessing live specimens of scheduled animals must obtain a registration certificate from the Management Authority. 
      • The Bill gives the government the authority to control or outlaw the import, trade, and possession of invasive alien species, or those that are not indigenous to India.
    • Penalty for violations
      • The bill increases the penalty for violations of the provisions of the bill. 
      • Under the 1972 act, the general fine was up to 25,000 which has been increased to 1, 00,000
      • For violating the provisions meant for specially protected animals, the previous fine was up to 10,000 and now has been increased to at least 25,000.
    • Greater control and regulation of wildlife sanctuaries
      • The bill will also ensure greater control and regulation of wildlife sanctuaries and empower the government to notify a conservation reserve, an area located next to sanctuaries or national parks to protect the flora and fauna.
      • The Act entrusts the Chief Wildlife Warden to control, manage and maintain all sanctuaries in a state. 
        • The Chief Wildlife Warden is appointed by the state government. 
      • The Bill specifies that actions of the Chief Warden must be in accordance with the management plans for the sanctuary. 
      • For sanctuaries falling under special areas, the management plan must be prepared after due consultation with the concerned Gram Sabha.
    • Voluntary surrender
      • The bill provides for any person to voluntarily surrender any captive animals or animal products for which no compensation will be awarded and the items will become the property of the state government.
    • The Bill Will Allow For Commercial Trade In Live Elephants
      • The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 specifically prohibits trade in Wild Animals including captive and wild elephants.
      • Thus an exception has been carved out by excluding ‘live elephant’ from the general prohibition contained in Section 43.
      • The implication of the same is that commercial sale and purchase is no longer prohibited, under the Act.
      • The Amendment Bill, therefore, allows for commercial trade in elephants.

    Significance 

    • The Act regulates the protection of wild animals, birds and plants. 
    • Increase the species protected under the law
      • Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 (WLPA) Act regulates the protection of wild animals, birds and plants.  
        • The Bill seeks to increase the species protected under the law, and implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
    • Participation of forest dwellers: The recent amendment has taken a progressive step to foster the participation of forest dwellers within national parks while determining the management plan.
    • It has mandated the need to consult the Gram Sabha: in protected areas falling under scheduled areas or areas recognised to possess forest rights based on claims under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

    Challenges

    • WLPA severely curtailed the ability to graze across pastoral spaces since the compartments wherein grazing were granted as concessions soon fell within the categories of protected areas.       
      • The Van Gujjars are a semi-nomadic pastoral community, which continues to practice seasonal migration across forests in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh in pursuit of their pastoral livelihood, and raised an issue regarding this provision.
    • ‘Local’ communities: is used for the clause that allows linear projects for development such as drinking water within protected areas.
      • This clause can be misused since many claims can be made in the name of locals while alienating forest dwellers and their claims to coexistence.
    • Vermin: Major concern is with how certain animals are classified as ‘vermin’. Several species which fulfil an ecosystem function should not be declared available to hunt if they cause inconvenience to humans.
    • Trade in Elephants: It shall not apply to the transfer or transport of any live elephant by a person having a certificate of ownership, where such person has obtained prior permission from the State Government on fulfilment of such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government.

    Conclusion and Way Forward 

    • It is imperative that future legislations on the subject are aligned with international standards and mindful of the regional ecological requirements. 
    • There is an imminent need to expand the definition of invasive alien species to include invasive native species. 
    • Additionally, an expert advisory committee must be constituted to assist the Central government in the identifying and prioritisation of invasive alien species such that targeted strategies can be developed for managing them.  
    • Adopting the correct definition is the most basic and significant step to propel the conversation on the subject in the right direction. 
    • It is imperative that the amendments do not disrupt the role of the State Board for Wildlife that acts as a check and balance in favour of Standing Committees that are ad hoc in nature. Decision making by such authorities can alienate the claims of forest dwellers and their perceptions of wildlife.

    CITES

    • CITES is an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species. 
    • Under CITES, plant and animal specimens are classified into three categories based on the threat to their extinction. 
    • The Convention requires countries to regulate the trade of all listed specimens through permits. 
    • It also seeks to regulate the possession of live animal specimens. 
    • The Bill seeks to implement these provisions of CITES. 

    Source: HT