A Forests Minister has introduced in Lok Sabha the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill to ensure that the original 1972 Act complies with the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Q What the Amendment brings in?
1. Standing Committee of State Board for Wildlife
The Bill proposes reducing the number of schedules and establishing a Standing Committee of State Board for Wildlife.
These committees will function like the National Board for Wildlife which is responsible for monitoring protected areas in the country and awarding or denying permission to projects in light of its threat to wildlife.
Officials say that in most states, State Wildlife Boards fall under the responsibility of Chief Ministers, and are therefore neglected due to the paucity of time.
The state Standing Committees will be able to take decisions on wildlife management and permissions granted for projects, without having to refer most projects to the NBWL.
2. Seized Species
There is also the insertion of a new section 42A about surrender of wild animals and products.
Any article or animal surrendered under this Section shall become property of the State Government and the provisions of Section 39 shall be applicable to it.
3. Reducing number of Schedules
The Ministry has also rationalized Schedules for Wildlife under the Act, bringing it down from 6 to 4 major schedules.
A schedule is a categorization of wildlife depending on how critically endangered they are.
A schedule I category of wildlife (such as Tigers) are the highest protected under the Act.
4. Wildlife Management Plans
The Ministry has mandated that Wildlife Management Plans which are developed for sanctuaries and national parks across the country, will now become a part of the WPA.
They will have to be approved by the Chief Wildlife Warden of the state.
This will ensure far stricter protection to these protected areas. Earlier they would be protected through executive orders which did not have as much teeth.
Q What is the need for the Amendment ?
A Blacklisting by CITES would affect trade in important plant species
CITES aims to regulate the international trade of animals and plants so that it does not threaten their survival.
This has been a long-standing demand from CITES for the past 25 years.
India has been blacklisted by CITES once before, and if a second blacklisting were to happen — then India will no longer be able to trade in important plant specimens.
This would affect the livelihood of a large section of Indian society that relies heavily on this trade.
Q What are the detail about CITES ?
CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
It is as an international agreement aimed at ensuring “that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival”.
It was drafted after a resolution was adopted at a meeting of the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1963.
It entered into force on July 1, 1975, and now has 183 parties.
The Convention is legally binding on the Parties in the sense that they are committed to implementing it; however, it does not take the place of national laws.
India is a signatory to and has also ratified CITES convention in 1976.
Q What are CITES Appendices ?
CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.
All import, export, re-exports and introduction from the sea of species covered by the convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.
It has three appendices:
Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade-in specimens of these species are permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
Appendix II provides a lower level of protection.
Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling trade.
Q What are some key details about Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 ?
WPA provides for the protection of the country’s wild animals, birds and plant species, in order to ensure environmental and ecological security.
It provides for the protection of a listed species of animals, birds and plants, and also for the establishment of a network of ecologically-important protected areas in the country.
It provides for various types of protected areas such as Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Parks etc.
There are six schedules provided in the WPA for protection of wildlife species which can be concisely summarized as under:
These species need rigorous protection and therefore, the harshest penalties for violation of the law are for species under this Schedule.
Animals under this list are accorded high protection. They cannot be hunted except under threat to human life.
Schedule III & IV:
This list is for species that are not endangered. This includes protected species but the penalty for any violation is less compared to the first two schedules.
This schedule contains animals which can be hunted.
This list contains plants that are forbidden from cultivation.