A NEW action plan for wildlife conservation in the country seeks to put all protected areas and wildlife corridors out of bounds for all mining activities and big irrigation projects.
The action plan, prepared by a committee appointed by the Environment Ministry in 2014, also wants restrictions on number of tourists and vehicles entering a protected area.
The action plan produced by the committee has been put in public domain for inviting comments and suggestions. Once approved, it would be in effect for the period 2017 to 2031. It would replace an existing National Wildlife Action Plan that came into being in 2002 and is supposed to run till the current year.
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The Environment Ministry is expected to implement the steps listed in the action plan in the interest of wildlife conservation.
Mining in the forests and ecologically sensitive areas is an unsettled debate. The Environment Ministry is still working with the Ministry of Mines, Ministry of Coal and others to mark out the areas where mining will be prohibited.
The draft action plan says the Environment Ministry must work with Ministry of Mines and Steel “to exclude PAs (Protected Areas)/wildlife corridors from their mining plans”.
“Proper rehabilitation of degraded and abandoned mining areas should also be done,” it says. It specifically refers to sand mining as a “highly destructive activity in which many stakeholders, including politicians, are involved”.
“The Ministry of Water Resources should be convinced not to pursue big projects for irrigation in the (protected) areas and to opt for minor irrigation relying on check dams, ponds, wells and other appropriate water harvesting units,” it says.
The draft plan says while tourism in the wildlife areas needs to be encouraged, it must be strictly monitored and regulated. “In case of any conflict between tourism and conservation interests of a PA (protected area), the paradigm for decision must be that tourism exists for the PAs and not vice versa, and that tourism demands must be subservient to and in consonance with the conservation interests of PA,” it says.
“…an emphasis must be placed on tourism facilities that are sustainable, environment-friendly, moderately priced, clean and wholesome, rather than lavish, five star facilities,” it says.
The draft plan also calls for new regional forensic laboratories, a Special Tiger Protection Force, and setting up of special courts to deal with wildlife crime like poaching and smuggling. “Investigation of wildlife crime still lacks steam even after the establishment of the National Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. The capacity of frontline forest guards and officers charged with the responsibility to investigate wildlife crime needs major improvement,” it says.