Comments to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill 2021
The submission stressed on the need to expand the scope of invasive species and species declared as vermin. Also recommends a new category ‘Deemed Wildlife Reserve’ to conserve wildlife habitats outside Protected Areas.
The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill 2021 (Bill No. 159/ 2021) proposes to update and add several provisions to the existing Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 (WPA) and streamline the same with other related laws and international commitments. A major addition is Chapter VB on regulating international trade in wildlife and the establishment of Management and Scientific Authorities to give effect to India’s commitment towards the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Climate and Ecosystems team at Vidhi has submitted their comments and suggestions on the Wildlife Protection Amendment Bill 2021 to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Parliament of India on 15th January 2022.
Some appreciable amendments include inclusion of ‘alien invasive species’ and regulating the same under the new Section 62A(l), the giving up of ownership over captive animal or any trophy under Section 42A (1), mandating consultation of the Gram Sabha in Protected Areas (PA) falling under Scheduled Areas or areas recognised under Forest Rights Act, 2006. Expansion of the definition of ‘person’ and inclusion of ex-situ conservation facilities under ‘zoos’ brings much needed brevity and expands the purview of the Act.
Although the Bill appears to have been drafted with good intentions, Vidhi’s analysis indicates that several provisions can be improved to bring clarity, strengthen conservation efforts, and effectively implement the WPA. There are several neglected aspects of wildlife management which may be addressed through this Bill. Following are some of the highlights from Vidhi’s submission:
- The need for regulation of ‘invasive native species‘ in addition to ‘invasive alien species’ to manage native species with known invasive characteristics. There are several native species which have invasive properties and threaten flora and fauna in their native range and beyond within the nation. An Advisory Committee on Invasive Species may be established.
- Use of the term ‘problem animal’ as opposed to ‘vermin’, specification of criteria and responsibilities in the process of declaration of any species as ‘problem animal’, and the introduction of an enabling provision to include feral population of domestic/tamed animals within the purview of this provision. Such feral animals, especially dogs, pose a threat to both ungulates (which they hunt) and to carnivores, since they carry infectious diseases. This is particularly important as studies have linked the origin of the major Emerging Infectious Diseases ( eg. HIV, Ebola, SARS, Covid-19) in wildlife.
- Improve definitions and provisions in line with the CITES Model Law and international best practices. More functions and responsibilities of the Management and Scientific Authorities must be specified.
- The need to bring attention towards protection of wildlife habitats and corridors outside the PA network. The submission also recommends that wildlife habitats and corridors outside PAs be declared as ‘Deemed Wildlife Reserve’.
- The need to establish a Central Wildlife Authority with a wider jurisdiction over all wildlife habitats irrespective of their land ownership and PA status.
Download the complete submission to read further details on Vidhi’s suggestions to the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill.