Bill to amend Wild Life Act: Many species missing from schedules, House panel says in report

Bill to amend Wild Life Act: Many species missing from schedules, House panel says in report

India News

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change on Thursday submitted its report on the proposed , which was introduced in Lok Sabha last December.

The standing committee, chaired by Congress Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh, has found that some species were excluded from various schedules of wildlife and plants that have been proposed by the Environment Ministry, and has recommended a revised listing of schedules to include these species.

Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 provides a legal framework for the protection of various species of wild animals and plants, the management of their habitats, and the regulation and control of trade in wild animals, plants and products made from them.

The Act also lists schedules of plants and animals that are afforded various degrees of protection and monitoring by the government.

The Act has been amended several times, with the last amendment having been made in 2006.

“We have been very constructive. We have had a large number of sessions with the ministry. I also had an informal meeting the minister, so he is aware of our thinking, and the standing committee and the ministry can be on the same wavelength. There are differences which have been brought out, but as far as possible, we tried to bring the ministry’s and the standing committee’s positions closer, so that the debate is productive,” Ramesh told Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu while submitting the report.

Ministry officials have said that the rationalisation of the schedule for animals and plants was long overdue. The Ministry has streamlined the scheduling of species from the original six schedules to just three — Schedule I for species that will enjoy the highest level of protection, Schedule II for species that will be subject to a lesser degree of protection and Schedule III that covers plants.

The parliamentary committee said that while it was in agreement with the rationalisation and reduction of schedules, it “finds a number of species missing in all the three schedules”.

It also found “species that should be in Schedule I, but have been placed in Schedule II. There are species missing altogether both in Schedules I and II as well as in Schedule III. Schedules I and II as proposed in the Bill will also not be able to be referenced easily by those entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the amended Act since they are arranged according to their scientific names in Latin,” the committee said in its report.

The committee has recommended major changes in all the three schedules, and also the restructuring of Schedules I and II in a manner that makes them “easy to read and look up”.

“The Committee would also like to point out that due to the reduction in the number of schedules in the Bill, many species fail to appear in either Schedule I or Schedule II,” it said.

The ministry had recommended provisions for the improved care of seized and surrendered wild animals, but one specific amendment in this regard that provides for the transfer or transport of elephants has raised serious concern in the wildlife conservation community and in some state governments that this could lead to the trading of elephants.

“The Committee is deeply conscious of the fact that a number of religious and cultural institutions in some States own elephants which play a crucial role in daily worship and rituals. That is why it has attempted to strike a careful balance to ensure that age-old traditions are not interfered with while at the same time addressing widespread concerns that nothing should be done to even give an impression that private ownership of elephants and trade in them is going to be encouraged,” the committee said, recommending that the ministry prescribe more conditions by which transport of a captive elephant can only be done with valid certification.

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