The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has recommended de-notification and diversion of more than 1000 sq km of 'protected areas' and even allowed activities which could easily be located outside of the green zones.
The decision was taken by the standing committee on October 5 during the 'Wildlife Week' that is celebrated every year between October 2 and 8 to promote conservation efforts in India. The recommendation involves Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh, Mukundra National Park in Rajasthan and Bahu Conservation Reserve in Jammu district.
According to the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) this one of the single largest de-notification of the 'protected areas' in the country.
If the areas are denotified, the wildlife areas cannot be protected with legally defined dos and don'ts like for the 'notified areas'.
In order to rationalise the boundary of Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary, the board approved 47 per cent of its area from the originally notified 2,073 sq km area from both left and right banks of the Ganga river, reported Times of India.
Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer opposed this decision by the board and said, "The exclusion of this magnitude will have a significant impact on the entire riverine ecosystem of the sanctuary. It is said that even in the week when wildlife conservation is supposed to be a priority the standing committee approved de-notification of such large areas of PA."
"If the NBWL is unable to stop the destruction of wildlife during the 'wildlife week', it is time to either do away with the sham of 'wildlife week' or do away with the Standing Committee of the Board," he said defining the irony of the decision.
The Standing Committee which is headed by the Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar comprises of two non-official members- H S Singh, former principal chief conservator of forest, Gujarat and R Sukumar from the Indian Institute of Science.
When asked about the decision to denotify massive space at the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary, member of the Committee H S Singh, said, "The area recommended for de-notification is mainly non-forest land. It's being used for agriculture and habitation for years. The idea is to rationalise the boundaries of the sanctuary so that it can be protected under law. Forest area within the sanctuary has not been recommended for de-notification. The forest areas will continue to be part of the HWS."
LIFE in its analysis has made a significant statement that the decision regarding the de-notification is a violation of the Supreme Court orders of 2000 which prohibited de-notification of any national park, forest and sanctuary.
The board also decided that the Protected Area land of Mukundra National Park will be diversified for the development of eight lanes of national highways in Rajasthan.
One of the proposals considered by the Committee on October 5 was for developing Judicial infrastructure for the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir.
The proposed location of the project is Bahu Conservation Reserve of Jammu district. "The problem is that if we lose 'protected areas' for even infrastructure of High Courts, there is no purpose in terming them as PA," stated Dutta.