A wildlife conservation manifesto for political parties

These were the suggestions sent by me-Bagh to major political parties for inclusion and consideration in their manifesto. I restricted it to wildlife conservation..though was very tempted to include issues of water, soil conservation, pesticide consumption, GMO–all such crucial issues which impact our daily lives, but are largely absent from the electoral dialogue. Also it is concise and not as exhaustive as i would have liked it to be.ele-corbett

Suggestions for  manifesto on Wildlife Conservation:

1)    Notification of Critical Wildlife Habitats: as per February 2011 guidelines

Not even one Critical Wildlife Habitats has been notified under the Forests Rights Act (FRA), 2006. This crucial process needs to be completed both, as per the February 2011 guidelines as well as the provisions of the Act. The implementation of the FRA—which is already undergoing at great speed has resulted in the loss of atleast 15 lakh forest cover—and has been done without notifying even one Critical Wildlife Habitat Therefore, implementing the FRA   without the completion of this process (of notifying Critical Wildlife Habitats) shall remain partial and incomplete, and have irrevocable damaging consequences on wildlife and wild habitats,. for the future of our protected areas and wildlife habitats.

2) Conservation of existing forests rather than emphasis on ‘greening India’, and recoginition and conservation of forests as a key means to tackle climate change and global warming:

This is crucial, particularly as a key tool to combat impacts of Climate Change: in recognition of the fact that forests sequester and store carbon, and deforestation is a major cause for global warming, accounting for upwards of 18 per cent  of global emissions. This is in recognition of the fact that India is among the “extreme risk” countries of the world where economic impacts of climate change will be most keenly felt-besides its enormous impacts also on  marganilised  communities.

It may also be pointed out that, plantations can neither recreate nor compensate the biodiversity lost or endangered through the destruction or diversion of natural forests.

2)    Conserving Protected Areas and Consolidation of crucial wildlife habitats

The manifesto may commit to take every measure for the conservation of the national animal the tiger, including setting aside inviolate habitats to sustain optimum breeding tiger populations across all tiger landscapes. Further, dispersal, sink and connecting habitats beyond inviolate areas must be conserved and their contiguity preserved as part of a larger tiger-landscape unit. It is equally important to prioritise conservation of other critically endangered species  and endemic species.

3)    Use of CAMPA funds for consolidation of wildlife habitats:

CAMPA funds are the ‘net value compensation’ for the diversion, use and destruction of natural forests for mines, industries, infrastructure, power projects, etc. and therefore, need to be utilised for the protection of existing forests, and regeneration of forests. In recognition of this, the CAMPA guidelines by the MoEF advise and prioritise “use of funds for conservation, protection, regeneration and management of natural forests, and conservation, protection and management of wildlife and its habitat within and outside protected areas including the consolidation of the protected areas.” These guidelines are in consonance with the directions issued from time to time by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The manifesto may commit to implementation of the same.

4) Protecting Eco-systems

Formulation, of a National Policy on Grasslands Conservation & Wetlands Conservation

It is vital to understand the importance of both wetlands and grasslands—currently loosely defined as ‘wastelands’. These are highly productive ecosystems, and are of  high biodiversity value. Grasslands harbour many of our critically endangered species and endemic  species viz. great Indian bustard, lesser floricans, blackbucks etc,. They are also crucial for local livelihoods: grasslands are very important for the rural economy and livestock. Besides, grasslands play an irreplaceable role in soil conservation by preventing erosion of topsoil by the forces of nature.

Wetlands are not only vital from the point of view of conserving biodiversity, but are important ecosystems that recycle nutrients,  control flooding, recharge groundwater, provide fodder and fuel. Besides, fisheries from wetlands are  they are vital sources for nutrition and local livelihoods.

Both grasslands and wetlands are amongst our most threatened ecosystems, and we need a National Wetlands Policy and a National Grassland policy outlining a conservation framework for both, as well as their sustainable use for livelihoods.

5) Recognising the gravity and scale of Wildlife Crime, and empowering institutions to combat the same: Wildlife crime is now globally recognised as an organised crime, second only to arms and narcotics, and linked to terrorism. It not only severely threatens our endangered flora and fauna, but has been an established threat to national security. The trade is now a known source of funding for global terrorist activities. Future governments need to commit to acknowledging wildlife crime as a grave threat to national security and addressing it in the same gravity.

6) In recognition that the health of the environment and of the economy are linked and connected (for instance, a recent World Bank study estimates that environmental degradation is costing India around 5.7% of its GDP annually), it is suggested to strengthen the processes of environment, forest and wildlife regulations and clearances both at the state and central level while at the same time making them transparent, accountable—and time bound (keeping in mind the period required to understand impacts on wildlife and biodiversity.

 

Prerna Singh Bindra

Former member, National Board for Wildlife

Member, State Board for Wildlife, Uttarakhand

Trustee Bagh

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