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Even after SBWL nod, Karnataka Cabinet yet to notify 8 protected areas

Senior forest officers and wildlife conservationists have expressed their reservations over the issue of seeking Cabinet approval when the State Board for Wildlife, headed by the CM, has already approved the proposals.

Netravati Island Conservation Reserve is one of the areas notified by SBWL as protected. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Divya Jose T)

It seems to be a long road ahead for eight proposed protected areas to get Karnataka government’s nod. While the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) has approved eight proposals for the declaration of new protected areas, official documents accessed by The Indian Express show that the government has been sitting on them since 2019.

Although the board, headed by Karnataka Chief Minister Basvaraj Bommai, has already approved the proposals, the delay is attributed to a 2019 rule that mandates Cabinet approval for the addition and deletion of areas to wildlife sanctuaries and eco-sensitive zones.

Senior forest officials and wildlife conservationists have expressed their reservations over the issue of seeking Cabinet approval when the SBWL, headed by the CM, has already approved the proposals.

The new proposals were tabled before the SBWL based on the demands of the people and, in a few cases, even by political representatives.

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Earlier, the procedure to declare and notify protected areas was such that the forest officers, honorary wildlife wardens, or conservationists made the proposals to notify new protected areas, including their expansion, and they were placed in the SBWL meeting. Decisions were taken in the meeting. Gazettes were notified based on the decision taken. This was the practice till mid-2019.

However, the state government brought an amendment to Karnataka Government (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1977, which mandated Cabinet approval for the addition and deletion of areas to wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves an,d eco-sensitive zones.

Owing to this amendment, the future of eight such proposals seems bleak.

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A senior forest officer on the condition of anonymity said, “The proposals for declaring bird and wildlife sanctuaries were sent to the government after approval was given by the SBWL, which is headed by the chief minister. These proposals were based on long-pending demands by the people and public representatives. Despite the CM approving them, the government is yet to officially declare them as protected areas. It is unfortunate that we have to wait for Cabinet nod.”

Wildlife conservationist Giridhar Kulkarni has in a letter to CM Basavaraj Bommai and Chief Wildlife Warden Vijaykumar Gogi, who is also the member secretary of SBWL, explained the consequences caused by the delay in Cabinet approval and why it was essential to strike off Cabinet approval for notification of protected areas.

While hinting about the chances of political interference when the proposals go for Cabinet approval Kulkarni pointed out that even the decision of the SBWL in 2019 to declare Mullayyanagiri as a Conservation Reserve is yet to be notified since the government has directed to submit the revised proposal.

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“SBWL is a statutory body comprising the CM, forest minister, MLAs, and field experts. Decisions to declare the protected areas are taken with due diligence and therefore, it may not be a good development to refer the decisions of a statutory body to the Cabinet, which is the executive body, again headed by the Chief Minister. There is every chance of political interference, which may have serious implications on wildlife conservation thereby defeating the very purpose of a statutory body like the State Board for Wildlife,” Kulkarni said.

“Many proposals for notifying certain areas as protected zones are pending for more than three years which is definitely not a good development in the interest of wildlife conservation. Hence, it is high time to do away with the mandatory requirement of approval of Cabinet sub-committee and Cabinet for notifying Protected Areas,” he said.

The list approved by the State Board for Wildlife for notifying them as protected areas along with its date

Netravati Island Conservation Reserve – 09.01.2019

Bonal Bird Conservation Reserve – 26.09.2019

Arasikere Sloth Bear Sanctuary- 26.09.2019

Chikkasangama Bird Conservation Reserve- 19.01.2021

Bankapur Wolf Sanctuary- 19.01.2021

Mundige Kere Conservation Reserve- 19.01.2021

Uttaregudda Sanctuary- 19.01.2021

Hiresoolikere Sloth Bear Conservation Reserve- 19.01.2021

 

First published on: 07-10-2022 at 03:51:17 pm
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