Karnataka govt sits over plans to notify fresh protected areas

The proposals of declaring bird and wildlife sanctuaries were sent to the government after approval was given by the SBWL which is headed by the chief minister

United Nations Forum on Forests

Bengaluru: While the state board for wildlife (SBWL), Karnataka, has approved eight proposals for the declaration of new protected areas, the state government is sitting over the plans since 2019, officials said.

These proposals were put before the SBWL based on the demands by people and in a few cases even political representatives. Senior forest officials and wildlife conservationists have expressed their reservation over the issue of seeking cabinet approval when the SBWL which is headed by the chief minister has already approved the proposals.

Earlier, the procedure for declaration and notification of Protected Areas was such that proposals to notify new protected areas including their expansion were used to be proposed by the forest officers, honorary wildlife wardens or conservationists and these were placed in the meeting of the SBWL.

In the meeting, decisions were taken to declare the protected areas and Gazettes were notified based on the decision of the SBWL and this practice was in existence till mid of 2019. However, the state government brought amendment to the Karnataka government (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1977 which mandated the cabinet approval for addition and deletion of areas to Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Eco Sensitive Zones.

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Owing to this amendment the future of eight such proposals seems bleak.

A senior forest official on the condition of anonymity said, “The proposals of declaring bird and wildlife sanctuaries were sent to the government after approval was given by the SBWL which is headed by the chief minister. These proposals were based on long demands by the people and public representatives. Despite the CM approving the proposals the government is yet to officially declare them as protected areas. It is unfortunate that these proposals are still waiting for cabinet nod.”

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Wildlife conservationist, Giridhar Kulkarni has in a letter to the chief minister, Basavaraj Bommai who is heading the SBWL and chief wildlife warden, Vijaykumar Gogi who is also the member secretary of SBWL explained the consequences of the delay in the approval of protected areas and why is it necessary to withdraw the decision of State Government mandating cabinet approval for Notification of Protected Areas.

Mammoth autopsy
Wildlife conservationist Giridhar Kulkarni

“Even the decision of the SBWL in 2019 to declare Mullayyanagiri as Conservation Reserve is yet to be notified since the Government has directed to submit the revised proposal. The state board for wildlife is a statutory body comprising of the CM, forest minister, MLAs from the legislature and field experts, decisions to declare the Protected Areas are taken with due diligence and therefore, it may not be a good development to refer the decisions of a Statutory Body to the Cabinet which is the Executive body again headed by the Chief Minister and there is every chance of political interference which may have serious implications on wildlife conservation thereby defeating the very purpose of constitution of Statutory Body like state board for wildlife,” Kulkarni said.

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“Many proposals of notifying them as Protected Areas are pending for more than three years which is definitely not a good development in the interest of wildlife conservation. Hence, it is high time to do away with the mandatory requirement of approval of Cabinet Sub Committee and Cabinet for notifying Protected Areas,” he added.

Proposals waiting the state govt approval (with date of SBWB approval)

  • Netravati Island Conservation Reserve- 09.01.2019
  • Bonal Bird Conservation Reserve- 26.09.2019
  • Arasikere Sloth Bear Sanctuary- 26.09.2019
  • Chikkasangama Bird Conservation Reserve- 19.01.2021
  • Bankapur Wolf Sanctuary- 19.01.2021
  • Mundige Kere Conservation Reserve- 19.01.2021
  • Uttaregudda Sanctuary- 19.01.2021
  • Hiresoolikere Sloth Bear Conservation Reserve- 19.01.2021
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