Matters concerned with Environment

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

National Elephant Conservation Authority shot down

The Times of India on Mobile
NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister's Office has shot down a proposal to set up a National Elephant Conservation Authority along the lines of one existing for tigers.

The environment ministry had recommended an amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act creating a powerful autonomous authority for the pachyderm. The authority was intended to create a network of elephant reserves which could be kept free of mining and other harmful industrial activities.

The move had been made based on recommendations of an expert Elephant Task Force set up by the environment ministry to study the threats to the animal and advise on how to conserve it.

But the proposal has been shot down at the highest level even before it could reach the cabinet.

The habitat of the animal that environment minister Jairam Ramesh has said is facing ‘a story of attrition' is especially threatened by mining in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. In the recent past, the ministry has had to contend with several controversial proposals that deal a body blow to elephant conservation. But it's been constrained by the lack of legal teeth to protect the animal or a single official authority that can steer conservation needs for the animal.

With mining proposals pouring in from the two states and the tussle between environment ministry and coal and power ministries on to open up more forest areas for mining the move to scrap the proposal for the elephant authority is bound to weigh in favour of the mining industry.

Elephant reserves exist even today but they are only a demarcation on the map to provide funds under Project Elephant, just as it happened earlier for tiger reserves. The reserves have no legal validity and this makes it difficult to protect the elephant-bearing forests and lands against changes that would harm the pachyderm. The existing networks of national parks and sanctuaries do not serve to protect the elephant as the animal migrates and travels over long distances cutting across inhabited areas as well as forests.

The authority was expected to demarcate areas – including forests – that are important for elephant conservation and become a single window for advising on changes on these land patches just as the National Tiger Conservation Authority does for tiger reserves at the moment.

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