Big Prom­ises, Big­ger Si­lence

An un­usu­ally pro­duc­tive meet­ing of the Na­tional Board for Wildlife has raised hope. But will the prime min­is­ter de­liver?

Tehelka - - 20 -

form­ing a sub-com­mit­tee to re­vamp the rules of pro­ceed­ings. “There can be a pro­vi­sion for the min­is­ter to over­rule ob­jec­tions by mem­bers af­ter duly record­ing the same but the en­tire board can­not be made to look com­pla­cent,” said a mem­ber.

Fire­works were avoided again when the min­is­ter agreed to seek more funds from the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion to sup­port wildlife ar­eas other than tiger re­serves. This fis­cal year, Project Tiger was sanc­tioned 167.70 crore, while the al­lo­ca­tion for In­dia’s 600-odd pro­tected ar­eas was just 73.50 crore.

The Cen­tre’s 800 crore In­te­grated De­vel­op­ment of Wildlife Habi­tat ( IDWH) ini­tia­tive ear­marks only 250 crore to look af­ter the pro­tec­tion of all wildlife out­side pro­tected forests across the coun­try. Natara­jan also agreed to set up a Cen­tral body to mon­i­tor re­cov­ery strate­gies of 16 crit­i­cally en­dan­gered species and en­hance the present bud­get of 100 crore un­der the IDWH.

The 11th Plan ear­marked 778 crore for the 40 tiger re­serves. Dur­ing the same pe­riod, Project Ele­phant got only 82 crore. The min­is­ter ac­cepted, in prin­ci­ple, the pro- posal for set­ting up a Na­tional Ele­phant Con­ser­va­tion Author­ity and as­sured the NBWL to bring key ele­phant cor­ri­dors un­der the pro­tected ar­eas net­work in the forth­com­ing amend­ment of the Wildlife Pro­tec­tion Act.

Next up for dis­cus­sion was the con­tentious is­sue of project pro­po­nents ob­tain­ing green clear­ances through a strate­gic fait ac­com­pli. It has be­come a rou­tine to start work on a project af­ter se­cur­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ance and then cit­ing the quan­tum of in­vest­ment al­ready made as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for de­mand­ing the wildlife clear­ance. Ac­knowl­edg­ing the prob­lem, Natara­jan as­sured the NBWL that en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ance will hence­forth be con­sid­ered pro­vi­sional till wildlife clear­ance is granted.

All these as­sur­ances, if de­liv­ered, will make for more strin­gent com­pli­ance to green laws and, there­fore, can be viewed as ad­di­tional road­blocks by those ob­sessed with growth. All this while, the PM main­tained a stoic si­lence in the meet­ing. In fact, he barely spoke af­ter de­liv­er­ing his brief chair­man’s speech.

Given the PM’s pub­lic bel­liger­ence to “en­vi­ron­men­tal li­cence raj”, it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a sud­den change of heart. Not sur­pris­ing that a num­ber of NBWL mem­bers have vowed to fol­low up on the de­ci­sions made and as­sur­ances of­fered right from the stage of prepa­ra­tion of the meet­ing’s min­utes.

The coal scam un­folded un­der his watch and Man­mo­han Singh has since been ac­cused of Qui tacet con­sen­tire. But when it comes to stricter green laws, prime min­is­te­rial si­lence may not nec­es­sar­ily im­ply con­sent.

• Red sig­nal

Il­le­gal quar­ry­ing inside the BRT Tiger Re­serve in Kar­nataka

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