Sunday, 3 June 2012

Beautiful India Dirty Ministers!

At a time when the common man himself is showing concern for the country's environment and taking active part in initiatives and campaigns to curb environmental pollution, it is extremely disturbing to learn that the very people who are supposed to represent the people of this beautiful nation, are dirtying it; through their actions and the dirty policies they frame.

Rewind to 1973- The erstwhile PM Indira Gandhi launched Project Tiger, owing to the alarming fall in the tiger population. The success of this project is attributed to its strategy. The tiger reserves consist of a core area as well as a buffer area. The core area would be completely isolated from human interference and the buffer area would allow human activities, including forestry operations and concessions to local people, but in a regulated manner. In 2011, this was further strengthened by means of a Guidance Document released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which asserted that the recommendation of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) was essential "for any kind of destruction/damage/removal of any wildlife or diverting the habitat of any wild animal" even for non-forestry activites up to 10 kilometres from the boundaries of National Parks and Sanctuaries.

Back to the Present- Jairam Ramesh was replaced by Jayanthi Natrajan for good, but certainly not for the country's good. Immediately after the start of her term, the inclusion of elephant corridors in the Guidance Document was hotly debated by Jagdish Kishwan, additional Director for General Wildlife over a series of letters to various officials. The Minister, however, chose to ignore the contention until it came up for review in February 2012.

The MoEF convened in a meeting chaired by the Minister, where the group decided to omit just a few words from the Guidance Document, but with massive implications. The outcome of the meeting meant that projects impacting tiger reserves, elephant reserves, and wildlife corridors need not be placed before the Standing Committee of the NBWL and that any project proposals can be cleared as per the discretion of the ministry's Environment Division. It also stated that all projects rejected by the NBWL in the last year could now be reviewed. What is most disturbing, is that months after the meeting, neither has the document on the MoEF website been updated, nor have the changes been made public. Interestingly, not a single member of the NBWL had been invited for the meeting, including the Director General of Forests in the MoEF.

Are the elephants truly welcome?

We can only guess what the true motive of the MoEF was, in modifying the guidelines and not even making it public. After all, the series of events leading up to the change seems to suggest law manipulation and a clear lack of transparency!

The results of that change have already begun rearing their ugly heads; 3 tigers have been found dead in a span of 3 days in the jungles of the Tarai region, Uttar Pradesh under suspicious circumstances. If those very people, who are put in charge to protect the irreplaceable and fragile ecosystems of this Beautiful country, what progress, can we, as citizens even think of making? And more importantly, what about the plight of those tigers and elephants, whose homes are now so insecure?

-A concerned citizen of a beautiful country.

Tiger Conservation Strategy:
'Guidance' Document:
Tiger Death News Report:

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