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Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    4th May, 2022

Context

Parliament has proposed an amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Background

  • The geographic location and latitudinal position of India has gifted India with a diverse wildlife species.
  • India with 6 biodiversity hotspot possesses several numbers of species of plants and animals. In order to conserve and protect these species of biodiversity India needs a speculative and strong legislative backing.
  • Wildlife (Protect) Act, 1972 provides a legal backing for protection of the wildlife species and to the commitments made by India to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • Rationalization of scheduled species of plants and animals were long overdue.
  • The new bill proposes for 50 Amendments to the existing act of 1972.
  • Despite several sequential amendments wildlife species are still facing survival threat in India.

Analysis

Origin of the act:

  • To protect the biodiversity of India, Government of India has passed a act Wildlife (Protection) Act in the year 1972.
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 has several Provisions:
    • Schedule 1: Endangered species immune from all king of trading and poaching with extreme protection
    • Schedule 2: Species with lesser protection and prohibition of trade.
    • Schedule 3 and 4: Non – Endangered species
    • Schedule 5: Plants species
    • Schedule 6: Vermin Species

What changes does the amendment propose?

The Bill seeks to increase the species protected under the law, and implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  Key features of the Bill include:

  • Rationalizing the schedules:
    • Reduced the number of schedules for specially protected animals to two
    • Removed the scheduled for vermin species.
    • New schedule for specimens listed in the appendices of CITES
  • Obligations under cites: Bill provides for creation of two independent authorities
    • Management Authority: To grant license for trading purpose
    • Scientific Authority: To give advice on aspects related to impact on the survival of the specimen being traded.
  • Regulation on invasive species: Bill empowers the central government to regulate the import and trade of invasive alien species.
  • Control of Sanctuaries: Empower the government to regulate the business of Chief Wildlife Warden in line with the regulatory guidelines made by central government.
  • Voluntary Surrender of Specimen: Any one surrendering any captive animal to the Chief Wildlife Warden, the person will not be compensated and the specimen of the captive animal will be considered as states property.
  • Penalties: Penalties on violation of the rules has been revised and increased under this bill.

What are major benefits of the proposed amendment?

  • Decentralization: The Bill aims to decentralise wildlife protection, with the establishment of Standing Committees of State Boards of Wildlife, which can regulate permissions to various projects based on their impact on the wildlife, without having to refer to the National Board for Wildlife.
  • The bill also aims to streamline the schedules mentioned in the original Act, shrinking them from six to four.
  • Additionally, Wildlife Management Plans crafted for wildlife sanctuaries and parks in the country will be brought under the jurisdiction of the Act, thereby increasing the scope for stricter protection for various species. These were earlier governed by the government in charge. 
  • Increased penalty for wildlife crimes: The Bill increases penalties for wildlife crimes.
    • For example, offences that attracted a fine of Rs 25,000 now attract Rs 1 lakh.
  • CITES: There’s a new and separate chapter on regulating species involved in international trade according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Specifically, the Bill prohibits possessing, trading and breeding species without prior permissions from CITES authorities.
    • India became party to CITES in 1976.
  • Invasive alien species: The Bill also recognises threats that invasive alien species pose.
    • These species aren’t native to the country; when they’re introduced to an ecosystem that hasn’t evolved to deal with this life-form, they can quickly degrade it to their advantage.
      • An infamous example is the weed called mesquite.

What are limitations and drawbacks of the amendment?

  • Effect on elephant population: The bill allows for commercial trade in elephants which is problematic because it effectively gives legal sanctity to commercial trade in live elephants.
  • Wild Asian elephants are taken from forests, often illegally, to maintain the high demand for captive elephants. This could affect wild populations of elephants.
  • More power to centre: Another amendment in the bill has given excessive delegation and unrestricted power to the Central government to declare a species as
  • Once a wild animal is declared as vermin, it enjoys no legal protection and has the same status as a domestic animal. It can be killed, traded, and tamed.
  • Permission for film shoot: Section-28 (b) has been amended to grant permission for film-making without causing any adverse impact to habitat/wildlife.
  • Film shooting was banned in 1978 to avoid accidents and tragedies.
  • The bill also lacks to encourage the importance of including research and habitats in the Preamble and creating enabling provisions.
  • Minimizing the list of Animals: reshuffling of schedules by the Amendment has reduced the list of species which were enlisted under Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972. 

Conclusion

There is a dire need for joint effort of Government furthermore, Stakeholders with NGOs for various projects worry to protection of biodiversity and natural life government assistance. Government ought to endorse enactment for illicit exercises that drives biodiversity to the edge of termination.  There ought to be open mindfulness about wildlife conservation significance through social, print and electronic media.

Practice Questions

Q1. Despite stringent laws, illegal trade of wildlife is rampant in India. Discuss the reasons behind the same. What are the steps taken by Government for conservation and management of endangered species?

Q2. Briefly discuss the key provisions of the Wildlife Protection Amendment Bill, 2021? What is the significance of the amendment for wildlife conservation and protection?

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