HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

SC order on wildlife board jolts Prakash Javadekar

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 26, 2014
First Published: 21:36 IST(26/8/2014) | Last Updated: 21:49 IST(26/8/2014)

Hit by the Supreme Court putting decisions of the standing committee of the national board for wildlife on hold, the environment ministry would urge the apex court to review its order saying nothing illegal has been done.

Trying to put a brave face after the court order, environment and forest minister Prakash Javadekar said nothing illegal has been done.

"We have reconstituted the standing committee and the wildlife board. The rules are for the wildlife board not the committee. We would inform the court about the facts of the case," he said when asked about the next course of action in wake of the Supreme Court's order.

The reconstituted committee with just two non-official members - one from an NGO affiliated to the Gujarat government - cleared 140 proposals at its first meeting in August.

Of these projects five were close to tiger reserves including expansion of a national highway passing next to a tiger habitat in Maharashtra and a Border Road Organisation's project in Manipur.

"The expansion was approved with the conditions imposed by the Wildlife Institute of India," a senior ministry official said, adding that most of the projects were held back for a long time on flimsy grounds. A road for Border Security Force passing through a rich flamingo habitat in Gujarat also got approval.

The truncated standing committee was the first major body to be constituted by Javadekar after he took over an environment minister. Earlier the committee used to have five non-official members - mostly independent wildlife experts - to put some checks and balances to mad rush for approval of projects.

The minister reduced the number to two with just Raman Sukumar an elephant expert from Bangalore being an independent member.

The issue of spree of approvals around tiger habitats found some mention at a meeting of National Tiger Conservation Authority chaired by Javadekar on Tuesday.

"Some members raised the issue of the danger of developmental projects coming up near tiger reserves," an official said. The minister reacted by saying that the government will come up with a policy to balance development with tiger conservation.

At the meeting, Javadekar announced that the NTCA with the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau would launch a MIS based tiger tracking system to strengthen the efforts being made to control wildlife crimes around tiger reserves. "This would help in real time monitoring of tigers in 47 tiger reserves in India," the minister said.

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