Controversial Wildlife Bill

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    Rajya Sabha passed the Wildlife (Protection), Amendment Bill, 2022

    Major Highlights of the bill 

    • The Bill seeks to conserve and protect wildlife through better management of protected areas and rationalise schedules which list out species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
    • It seeks to implement India’s obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which requires countries to regulate the trade of all listed specimens through permits.
    • It seeks to provide for certain permitted activities like grazing or movement of livestock and bona fide use of drinking and household water by local communities.
    • It proposed an exception to Section 43 and this section 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 fulfillment of such conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government.
    • For the first time, a regulatory mechanism to deal with ‘invasive alien species has been inserted in the Act which defines ‘any species of animal or plant which is not native to India and whose introduction or spread may threaten or adversely impact wildlife or its habitat.
    • Prohibitions: The Bill prohibits any person from modifying or removing the identification mark of the specimen made by the Management Authority and every person possessing live specimens of scheduled animals must obtain a registration certificate.
    • Penalty: Under the Bill, the fine for General violation is up to Rs 1,00,000, and for specially protected animals is at least Rs 25,000.

    Issues and Concerns 

    • A study found that persons from oppressed caste communities such as Scheduled Tribes and other forest-dwelling communities form the majority of accused persons in wildlife-related crimes. 
      • The Forest Department was found to use the threat of criminalisation to force cooperation, apart from devising a system of using community members as informants and drawing on their loyalty by employing them on a daily wage basis. 
    • Criminal cases filed by the department are rarely compounded since they are meant to create a ‘deterrent effect’ by instilling fear in communities. 
      • Fear is a crucial way in which the department mediates governance in protected areas, and its officials are rarely checked for their power.
    • Bill ignores the fact that for a species to be invasive it doesn’t necessarily need to be of foreign origin. 
      • Several species of plants and animals found in a particular ecosystem have the potential to become invasive in another ecosystem within the nation. 
    • The new amendment fails to acknowledge such ecosystem-based native species and addresses only species that are non-native.
    • the amendment has given huge discretion for the transportation of live elephants and expressed concern about protecting the animal. 
      • the amendment contravenes Section 27 of the Act.

    Conclusion and Way Forward 

    • Going forward, the success of WPA will depend upon how well the State expands its protection beyond iconic species and recognizes the importance of diverse habitats and their connectivity in the survival of wildlife.
    •  The real test of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and this amendment will be measured with how well the elephants and other endangered wildlife are protected and conserved in this country.

    Mains Practice Question 

    [Q] Recent amendments to the Wildlife (Protection Act (WLPA), 1972 will have a profound impact on wildlife habitats and native wildlife. Discuss