Proposed amendments to Wildlife Act takes environmentalists by surprise


They say neither was this in public domain nor was there enough time to file objections

Amidst opposition to a slew of amendments proposed to crucial laws pertaining to the environment and forests, another addition to this list has taken citizens by surprise. Environmentalists are stumped by the sudden appearance of proposed amendments to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. They said neither was this in the public domain nor was enough time given for anyone to file objections to them.

According to the document of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the ministry has proposed amendments to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and has asked State Governments/Union Territories to submit their views/ comments by October 23.

In a letter to the Government, conservationist Giridhar Kulkarni, expressed his unhappiness with the lack of publicity on the part of the Government and failure to publish the proposed amendments in local languages.

“It appears that the proposed amendments are not published in the public domain by inviting the comments/ objections and also not published in vernacular languages… When the Ministry had published the Draft EIA Notification, 2020, even then the Ministry had not given wide publicity initially and this move was challenged by United Conservation Movement Charitable and Welfare Trust through a Public Interest Litigation in in the High Court of Karnataka, Bengaluru,” he stated the letter.

“It appears that the proposed amendments to Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, too are likely to have impact on wildlife, hence it is important that the Ministry invites objections/ comments from public by publishing the proposed amendments in the public domain and also mainly in vernacular languages of States/ Union Territories. It is also important that the Ministry gives sufficient time by extending the last date to submit objections/ comments,” he added.

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Amendments

The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2021, among other things, proposes reducing the number of schedules and establishing a Standing Committee of State Board for Wildlife. “The Standing Committee shall consist of the Vice-Chairperson, the Member-Secretary, and not more than ten members, to be nominated by the Vice-Chairperson, from amongst the members of the State Board for Wildlife,” the draft says.

There is also the insertion of a new section 42A about surrender of wild animals and products. “Any article or animal surrendered under this Section shall become property of the State Government and the provisions of Section 39 shall be applicable to it,” the explanation says.

“First, it has not been open for public comments and only States and UTs. It has been kept very confidential. Though there are not many destructive amendments, there are attempts to weaken the state wildlife board by introducing a Standing Committee. If all decisions are taken by this committee, there will be rubber stamp selected members on it,” said environmentalist Akhilesh Chipli.

He also asked what the logic behind reducing the number of schedules was. “There seems to be no clear objective behind these amendments. Why are they reorganising schedules?” he asked.



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Sagar Biswas

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