Monday, November 30, 2015

Widlife politics.

| 01 November, 2015
Asiatic lion (Getty Images)
The worst of the prevailing confrontationist, divisive, political scenario finds unhappy reflection in the manner in which two states, incidentally both BJP-ruled, are endangering major conservation projects by placing a higher priority on their parochial interests. It may not exactly be tit-for-tat, but the Rajasthan government’s refusal to allow eggs of the dwindling Great Indian Bustard (GIB) to be transferred to Gujarat for hatching and hopefully raising a new colony there is of a piece with Gujarat’s non-implementation of an apex court directive to re-locate a few lions from the Gir forest to a game park in Madhya Pradesh (incidentally also BJP-ruled) to try and create a second habitat for the last of the Asiatic lions.
Perhaps the only difference is that while the Gir is now showings signs of being unable to host an increasing lion population, the GIB continues to be on the disappearing trail - which actually enhances the importance of the translocation experiment in Kutch. Of course a breeding centre in Rajasthan would be an added bonus. While expert opinion points to the natural conditions in Kutch being suited to hosting the GIB, the question Rajasthan opts to raise is why the birds did not thrive there in the recent past? A similar query might have also been raised in the context of Sariska losing its original stock of tigers.
The tragedy of such petty parochialism is that it impacts what were conceived as national breeding programmes - hough “national” now has assumed some ugly connotations. There are, or should be, limitations to the concept of state-ownership of wildlife resources: the boundaries of their habitats were drawn by nature - not any government-appointed commission.
Although a national wildlife board does exist, its clout is limited; hence specific projects had to be put in place to cater to the elephant and tiger. Is it now necessary to have a specialised agency for each species with authority over state/local administrations? That would be ridiculous, and demeaning to “India” at large. Surely state governments can be pressured by the Centre to rise above such lowly thinking and cooperate to conserve the dwindling riches of the Indian wild, which face threats/challenges aplenty. Hopefully Mr Narendra Modi will not, yet again, opt to “sit this one out.”


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