Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wildlife Board clears 40 crucial projects in two hours.

May 24, 2011   12:09:49 PM
Moushumi Basu | New Delhi
The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), with Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh as its chairman, has been virtually reduced to a mere clearance house for diversion of forest land. Much to the annoyance of the members, as many as 40 proposals were cleared in two hours in the 21st Standing Committee meeting of the Board on April 25.
Exasperated over the alleged unilateral decision of the Minister, several members have written letters to Ramesh expressing their dissent. According to them, the meeting was conducted in great haste for simply giving clearances and most of them got just 24-72 hours to study project proposals running into hundreds of pages. As many as 38 proposals reached at the eleventh hour giving them little time for preparation, they added.
“These are by no means ordinary proposals but relate to the protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries which constitute just about 4 per cent of the total area in the country. Our decisions in these meetings concern the critically endangered wildlife. This is certainly not the way to dispose of such proposals”, pointed out a member, on condition of anonymity. The opinion of the Board is binding on the Government.
The members further noted that no conservation issue was discussed, even those raised by them did not figure in the agenda.
Senior member MK Ranjitsinh pointed out, “the agenda items must be sent well in advance and that in future additional agenda items must not be given in the meeting itself. Crucial information such as the opinion of the State Wildlife Advisory Boards without which the Standing Committee cannot consider the proposals must be clearly stated in the project format prepared for each proposal”.
Divyabhanusinh Chavda, NBWL member, regretted, “the hard copy with the maps was delivered to my house on Sunday, April 24 at Jaipur when I had already left for Delhi. Additional items in the agenda were presented at the meeting itself. In view of the above, I was unable to fully prepare for the meeting as I would have liked to do”.
Prominent amongst the proposals that invited major concerns from the members were the diversion of 7.2871 ha of forest land for construction of Ropeway from Bhavnath Taleti to Ambaji Temple in Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat.
NBWL member Prerna Singh Bindra expressed her concern on the possible impact it would cause on the resident vulture population in the area. “The ropeway will pass through a known breeding site of the long billed vulture”, pointed out Bindra. She added 69 vultures were counted in 2010, which is an increase from the last count of 41, suggesting an increase in numbers, as against a massive decline in the State, and indeed India.
The report by Divyabhanusinh and Nita Shah placed before the committee on January 24 clearly states that the ropeway, if constructed, would lead to the local extinction of the long-billed vulture Gyps indicus in North Gujarat. The critically endangered long-billed vulture has seen a collapse of nearly 99 per cent of its population, and is categorised as critically endangered, she pointed out. Ironically, the vulture is part of species recovery programme of MoEF.
Asad Rahmani, another NBWL member and Director Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) suggested as one of the conditions of clearance that the State Government should effectively implement the ban on use of diclofenac in the State so as to protect the existing population of vultures in the State.
The proposal for denotification of entire area of Trikuta Wildlife Sanctuary (31.40 sq kms) in Jammu and Kashmir also drew concern of the members. MK Ranjitsinh pointed out such a site - double the area of the current notification - should be identified with a proper biodiversity survey, and put before the Board and notified as a protected area first before any denotification of Trikuta Wildlife Sanctuary.
Source: http://www.dailypioneer.com/339661/Wildlife-Board-clears-40-crucial-projects-in-two-hours.html

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