Experts welcome removal of clause from Wildlife Bill regarding trade in elephants | Latest India News
Legal and wildlife experts are relieved that a provision of the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill 2021, which made trade in elephants possible, did not make it into the 2022 Bill , adopted by Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
Another provision relating to the formation of a State Board Standing Committee on Wildlife (SBWL) — which will be headed by the state’s Minister of Forestry and will include no more than 10 members appointed by the Minister — has been retained. The clause is likely to ease the wildlife permit process for infrastructure projects at the state level, as the panel will be made up mostly of official members, experts said.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 specifically prohibits the trade in wild animals, including captive and wild elephants. Under Sections 40 and 43 of the Act, the transfer, acquisition and receipt of a live captive elephant is only permitted with the prior approval of the Chief Wildlife Warden. However, such transfer, acquisition and receipt of an elephant should not involve any commercial transaction.
The Amendment Bill 2021 had introduced a new subsection (4) to Section 43 which removes protection against trade in elephants. The Standing Parliamentary Committee on Science, Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, recommended in its April report that the clause be removed and asked the Center to provide an explanation of the arrangements for transporting captive elephants. This panel recommendation appears to have been accepted.
“The 2022 bill states that the transfer and transport of captive elephants for religious and other purposes is permitted subject to conditions prescribed by the central government. This is the situation that also exists in the current law, although the use of the word “religious” seems to have been added due to the recommendation of the Standing Committee headed by Jairam Ramesh. The 2021 bill did not use the word “religious”. Despite this, the decision not to open trade in live elephants is a positive development. It is pertinent to point out that the 2021 bill specifically allowed commercial trade in ‘live elephants’ whereas the bill passed in 2022 refers to the (non-commercial) transfer and transport of ‘captive elephants’” said Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer, in a critique of the passed bill.
“Unfortunately, the bad practice of the standing committee taking on the role of the National Wildlife Council that is seen at the central level will be replicated at the state level as well with the state council gone and the standing committee with select members taking all decisions on national parks and sanctuaries,” Dutta added.
The second major change is the clarification of section 29 of the Act. The 2021 bill authorized the bona fide use of water from sanctuaries for drinking water and domestic water for local communities. The word “local community” is not defined and leaves room for interpretation. The passed bill, however, clarifies that “local communities” refer to those within the boundaries of sanctuaries and thus avoids the possibility of abuse, Dutta explained. Dutta’s legal team also said the categorization of various species according to their families in the passed bill will help officials in wildlife management.
“Now there are specific sections for bears, porcupines, primates, antelopes, etc. The fact that rodents, including different species of rats, have found honorable mention in the law is significant because they are all treated as pests.Law enforcement agencies used to find it difficult to locate the species in the appendix as they were distributed everywhere.In addition, many subspecies that were not included have now been included in the law,” the review said.
Some experts have also reported that there is an exception made for conservation breeding centers which can be misused. Under current law, a zoo can only acquire, transfer or sell a wild or captive animal from another recognized zoo. The adopted bill contains a provision stipulating that this will not apply to breeding centres. This will allow breeding centers to acquire animals that are in captivity or in the wild for conservation breeding, Dutta said.
“Now there is an exemption for the ‘conservation breeding center’. Also exempts the transfer of elephants. Given the recent corporate interest in private zoos, I seriously hope this provision will not be misused,” tweeted Debadityo Sinha, Senior Resident Fellow at the Vidhi Center for Legal Policy.
The bill passed on Tuesday amends the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 to better implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Environment in response to questions from HT, the draft law provides for relevant definitions, designation of CITES scientific and management authority, conditions for trade in CITES-listed species and other relevant questions. “In addition to this, certain other amendments have also been proposed in order to make the law more comprehensive,” the statement said.
The new amendments streamline the schedules of the Act and reduce them from the current six schedules to four schedules; it is proposed to increase the financial penalties in the event of contravention of the provisions of the Act so that they have a sufficient deterrent effect; empowers the central government to regulate or prohibit the import, trade, possession or proliferation of invasive alien species whose introduction or spread may pose a threat to wildlife; allows state wildlife councils to establish standing committees and other committees, subcommittees, or task forces as needed; better care of seized live animals and disposal of seized wild animal parts and derivatives, among other provisions, a senior Environment Ministry official said.
Neha Sinha, wildlife biologist and author, said: “It is a welcome step that we are tackling invasive alien species, which have devastated both the economy and the ecology. However, the definition of invasive alien species is not complete. The bill defines it as follows: “invasive alien species” means an animal or plant species which is not native to India and whose introduction or spread may threaten or harm wildlife or its habitat ; “; But in fact, these are species that are not native to an Indian habitat. Even an Indian species can be invasive in another part of India – like the Indian crow in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. We must update these definitions and make them more scientifically accurate.”
“Secondly, the bill provides for the establishment of a standing committee within the State Wildlife Council, which will have approximately 12 members. The idea seems to be that such a permanent committee will quickly clarify the proposals. Yet in a time of climate change and species loss, what we need is not necessarily speed, but absolute rigor in decision-making, as well as effective representation from wildlife experts. and ecology. The 2002 amendment mentions “ten persons to be appointed by the central government from among the Council’s eminent conservationists, environmentalists and environmentalists”. Will the standing committee have such independent and specialized experts? she added.