New Delhi: Organisations and companies implementing development projects in and around India’s national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can no longer ignore the welfare of wildlife as an expert panel led by union environment minister Harsh Vardhan has now decided to adopt a strict mechanism under which an annual compliance report will be required.
The move comes after the panel observed that development projects frequently carry out work in such areas without fulfilling conditions that were stipulated at the time they were granted clearance. The projects will now need to furnish annual compliance reports with such conditions.
The decision was taken at a 25 January meeting of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), which is headed by the environment minister. NBWL is the highest body for deciding issues related to protection and conservation of wildlife.
The latest decision is also significant as every year hundreds of projects in and around the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are given wildlife clearance by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC). But the ministry has itself admitted several times that the monitoring of conditions on the basis of which industrial and developmental projects get forest, wildlife and environment clearance are given is weak.
According to the minutes of the committee’s 25 January meeting, which were reviewed by Mint, the environment ministry’s deputy inspector general (DIG) of forest (wildlife) S.P. Vashishth told the committee that the “Standing Committee of NBWL considers and recommends the developmental activities/projects inside the Protected Areas along with site-specific mitigation measures to safeguard the interest of wildlife. During the field visits by different committees constituted by the Standing Committee of NBWL, it has been observed that such projects were implemented without implementing some of the terms and conditions."
“In other words, the interests of wildlife conservation were ignored, sometimes intentionally," he added.
“The conservationists are of the view that the Protected Areas (PAs) have suffered due to sanctioning of the developmental projects inside the PAs in recent years while the project proponents ignored the conditions mentioned for protection of wildlife while recommending the projects," the minutes noted.
On this, a member of the NBWL’s committee, H.S. Singh stated that there was a need to “establish a mechanism of monitoring to ensure that the development activities/projects are taken up inside the Protected Areas only after implementing the terms and conditions".