The National Board for Wildlife (NBW),which is chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,will meet on Wednesday after a gap of more than two-and-a-half years to discuss a number of issues including the eco-tourism guidelines that have recently come under the Supreme Courts scrutiny.
The Supreme Court banned tourism in core areas of tiger habitats last month after which the central government agreed to review these guidelines. The apex court asked all stakeholders to make suggestions to the central government in preparing the revised guidelines. After the government submits the revised guidelines,the court will issue directions as to how to implement these.
The NBW,a statutory body with about 50 members,advises the central government on framing policies for conservation of wildlife. The meeting on Wednesday is likely to discuss the issues arising out of the complete ban on tourism in tiger areas and the views of various state governments and other stakeholders in this regard.
The meeting is slated to also discuss the proposed amendments in the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. These amendments seek to significantly enhance the penalty provisions for crimes against wildlife. In particular,the penalties for certain offences are sought to be increased from seven years imprisonment and/ or a fine of Rs 25,000 to seven years imprisonment and/ or a fine of Rs 50 lakh depending on the category of the crime. The draft amendment Bill has already been prepared by the Environment Ministry and is awaiting Cabinet clearance.
In addition,the meeting will take up for discussion the issue of finding a second home for Asiatic lions,which are currently found only in Gir forests of Gujarat,and the proposal for re-introduction of cheetah in India.
Some members have decided to raise the issue of neglect of protected areas other than tiger reserves. They have pointed out that while the 40 tiger reserves have attracted a funding of Rs 778 crore during the 11th five year plan and Rs 167 crore in the current financial year,the other 671 protected areas were starved of funds. Only Rs 364 crore was allocated for preservation of wildlife in these areas in the 11th plan.
In the current financial year,the allocation for the non-tiger protected areas was a mere Rs 73 crore,they have said.