What The FAQ: Why was there a need for amendments in the Wildlife Protection Act?

The Ministry says that the Bill will help India meet the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has slipped in a bill for amendments in the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Here is all you need to know about why these amendments were needed, and what environmentalists have to say about it.

When was the Bill introduced?

On December 18, the Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Bhupendra Yadav, introduced amendments to the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha during the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament. The Bill with proposed amendments was first drafted in October this year.

What changes are being proposed to the wildlife law?

The Bill aims to decentralise wildlife protection, with the establishment of Standing Committees of State Boards of Wildlife, which can regulate permissions to various projects based on their impact on the wildlife, without having to refer to the National Board for Wildlife. The bill also aims to streamline the schedules mentioned in the original Act, shrinking them from six to four. Additionally, Wildlife Management Plans crafted for wildlife sanctuaries and parks in the country will be brought under the jurisdiction of the Act, thereby increasing the scope for stricter protection for various species. These were earlier governed by the government in charge. 

What is the reason cited behind the changes?

The Ministry says that the Bill will help India meet the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is an international treaty regulating the safe trade of animals and plants across international borders. CITES, which came into force in July 1975, has assumed responsibility for the survival of almost 35,000 species of plants and animals. India's existing Wildlife Protection Act was first introduced in 1972, and it doesn't comply with some of the requirements of CITES, to which 184 member countries are a party. This had caused CITES to blacklist India once from the trade of these species, and if blacklisted once more, India will be prohibited from trading in some of these crucial species, impacting the livelihood of a large portion of the population.

Have the changes been well-received?

When the Bill was first proposed in October this year, it had irked activists and environmentalists in the country because the provisions for the amendment were not publicised, and neither were they made available in vernacular languages. Thus, parallels were drawn between this Bill and the much-contested Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification in 2020. Activists have said that enough time should have been given to raise objections and seek clarification on the provisions of the Bill.

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