Bidding for an image maker over, environment minister Jairam Ramesh cleared over 50 proposals in less than three hours at the recent wildlife board meeting earning huge dissent from majority of the non-official members.
The Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife headed by Ramesh is held regularly to consider projects in and around 600 protected areas in India. The job of the committee is also to initiate wildlife conservation schemes for specific projects.
But, on April 25, the minister appeared to be in hurry to get the projects cleared. The members of the committee got agenda of the meeting having 60 proposals a night before the meeting and did not get much time to study them.
“Due to hurried manner in which the proceedings of the committee was conducted we would like to put our dissent note on a number of decisions during the meeting, and request that these be put on record,” said Prerna Bindra and Koustubh Sharma, non-official members, in a joint note submitted to the ministry.
M K Ranjitsinh, who has worked in the ministry and is now a member, complained that very little time was being allocated for the conservation proposals. “This has frequently happened in the past,” he told the ministry, while asking Ramesh to call longer meetings to discusses the issues brought up individual members.
This time, proposals of a member Biswajit Mohanty on misuse of forest funds and for conservation ecology were not discussed citing paucity of time. Earlier similar proposals from Ranjitsinh and Asad Rahmani of Bombay Natural History Society were deferred.
Another member, who was not willing to be quoted, termed the committee as a “gateway” to destroy wildlife, rather than protecting it. “Priority of the committee should be conservation, not diversion. Unfortunately, no conservation work is taking place,” the member told HT.
What irked so many non-official members was that many proposals for diversion of the wildlife area, having adverse impact on the habitat, were cleared without much discussion.
Around 60 projects considered
51 given approval, seven deferred and two rejected.
Diversion of forestland for construction of ropeway to Ambaji Temple in Gujarat - Prerna Bindra dissented saying ecology of vultures will be destroyed.
Construction of patrol road in Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram - M K Ranjitsinh dissented saying no alternate land compensated.
Denotification of Trikuta Wildlife Sanctuary - J&K MK Ranjitsinh and Prerna Bindra dissented.
Denotification of Radhanagri Sanctuary for irrigation project in Maharashtra - Prerna Bindra dissented saying very good forest cover will be destroyed.
Others members Dr Koustubh Sharma and Divyabhanusinh Chava along with Bindra and Ranjitsinh protested against the way in which the meeting was conducted.
It included construction of a road near Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram, diversion of Son Gharial Crocodile Sanctuary for limestone mining in Madhya Pradesh, allowing drawing of water from Chambal Ghariyal Wildlife Sanctary for a thermal power plant, denotification of Trikuta Wildlife Sanctuary and diversion of forestland from construction of eight road projects from wildlife areas in Madhya Pradesh.
Within few minutes, the committee headed by Ramesh cleared a major irrigation project in Parvan river in Rajasthan meaning destruction of over 1.86 lakh trees. Another irrigation project near Ranthambore tiger reserve was also cleared.
In proposals where there was some discussion the dissent of the members were not noted correctly in the minutes. “Many proposals without incomplete documents were also on the agenda,” a member said.