New Delhi: Local bodies such as gram panchayats and gram sabhas (village councils) will be given more power under the Wildlife Protection Act, according to an amendment that was approved by the cabinet on Thursday.

They will need to be consulted before an area is declared as a national park or a sanctuary, as per the amendment.

“The suggestions by the panchayati raj ministry have been incorporated," finance minister P. Chidambaram told reporters after the cabinet meeting.

Among other amendments approved by the cabinet, provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) were incorporated into the Act.

CITES is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The cabinet also approved a proposal to make a representative of the local tribal community part of the management committee of a reserve, which could be tiger reserves, national parks or sanctuaries.

The cabinet also approved the ratification of the Nagoya protocol on access and benefit sharing. India, which has signed the protocol, is yet to ratify it.

Access and benefit sharing is the most important part of the protocol, the first international one on biodiversity. This ensures that local communities gain when multinational companies commercially exploit natural resources as they have to share benefits with local inhabitants in return for the access provided to them. The agreement mentions “fair and equitable" sharing of benefits.

India is currently hosting the 11th Conference of Parties to the Convention of Biodiversity in Hyderabad. India is one of the identified megadiverse countries rich in biodiversity. With 2.4% of the earth’s land area, India accounts for 7-8% of the recorded species of the world.

Close