Rajya Sabha passed the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022 which seeks to conserve and protect wildlife through better management of protected areas and rationalise schedules which list out species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Issues with the Bill:
- The exemption given to ‘live elephant’ for commercial trade: Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Jairam Ramesh objected to the blanket exemption, recommending to limit it only to temple elephants kept for religious purposes
- Protection of wild animals and birds is a subject under the Concurrent List of the Constitution. The proposed amendment bill renders the State Boards for Wildlife chaired by Chief Minister defunct.
- The elephant was given the highest legal protection in 1977. Currently, an elephant is the only animal in WLPA’s Schedule-I that can still be owned legally by means of inheritance or gift. Since 2003, Section 3 of the WLPA.
- The central government can designate a Management Authority, which grants export or import permits for the trade of specimens.
- Central Government can regulate or prohibit the import, trade, possession or proliferation of invasive alien species (plant or animal species which are not native to India and whose introduction may adversely impact wildlife or its habitat)
- The central government may also notify a conservation reserve( typically act as buffer zones to or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries) prohibited trade in all captive wildlife and any (non-commercial) transfer across state boundaries without the permission of the respective chief wildlife warden.
Provides much more power at the hands of the Central Government:
•States can declare areas adjacent to National parks and Sanctuaries as Conservation Reserve, for protecting flora and fauna, and their habitat.
•For sanctuaries falling under Scheduled Areas (where Forest Rights Act FRA 2006 is applicable and comes under the 5th Schedule), the management plan must be prepared after due consultation with the Gram Sabha concerned
•Exception for ‘live elephant’: The Bill allows for Commercial Trade In Live Elephants. The Bill, therefore, allows for commercial trade in elephants. This is contrary to the previous act (Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972) which specifically prohibits trade in Wild Animals including captive and wild elephants
•Voluntary surrender of captive animals: The bill provides for any person to voluntarily surrender any captive animals, without any compensation and consequent authority over the animal)
•Registration certificate for live specimens of scheduled animals: People possessing live specimens of scheduled animals must obtain a registration certificate from the Management Authority.
•Control of Sanctuaries to Chief Wildlife warden: The Act entrusts the Chief Wildlife Warden to control, manage and maintain all sanctuaries in a state. The Chief Wildlife Warden is appointed by the state
•Reduces the number of schedules from Six (currently) to Four now: Currently, there are six schedules: protected plants (one), specially protected animals (four), and vermin species (one). The new bill removes the schedule for vermin species (Vermin refers to small animals that carry diseases and destroy food e.g. Monkeys, Nilgai)
- This started the unlawful trading of elephants and their commercial deals were fabricated as gift deeds to bypass the Amendment.
- Centre’s hold over ‘vermin’ declaration continues: Last year, Kerala’s requests for declaring wild boars as vermin have been turned down repeatedly by the Environment ministry.
- The bill severely curtailed the ability to graze across pastoral spaces in the conservation areas
- Impact on tribal communities: The Van Gujjars are a semi-nomadic pastoral community (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh) that may be impacted.