Taking a lesson from the Assam government, members of the West Bengal wildlife board, which met after a long gap of three years, has urged the Mamata Banerjee government to immediately issue ‘Shoot-atSight’ orders to stop the rising number of rhino poaching cases in North Bengal forests.
Even though not in the prefixed agenda of the meeting, the rising number of rhino deaths in Jaldapara and Gorumara prompted the board members to take up the issue on Tuesday.
“The issue of poaching came up in the meeting. We have urged the state forest minister to issue shoot-atsight orders to stop rhino poaching in North Bengal,” said Joydip Kundu, one of the board members.
In the last 7 months at least six rhinos have been found dead, the latest one being shot dead on Saturday. The problem has aggravated after Assam issued shoot-at-sight orders in Kaziranga National Park almost a year back.
“Assam became the first state in India to issue ‘shootat-sight’ orders for poachers in Kaziranga National Park. Since then gangs are coming to west Bengal to take shelter. The issue has come up in the meeting. It’s a very sensitive issue and needs a lot of debate,” said Benoy Burman, state forest minister.
Interestingly, the meeting which should have been chaired by the chief minister was presided over by state finance minister Amit Mitra. Forest minister Benoy Burman was almost a mute spectator in the meeting.
“Despite reservations from certain members, the board passed the proposal to construct towers for a high tension transmission line through the Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR). It would require diversion of 16.39 hectares of forest land for the transmission line and towers which would supply power to North Bengal from Bhutan,” said a board member.
Insiders said that when some of the board members demanded that an Environmental Impact Assessment should be done before sanctioning the project the state finance minister accused the members of trying to delay the project unnecessarily.
Board members are apprehensive that it could lead to disasters during storms and cyclones if the line snaps as the BTR is home to several wild animals.
“The BTR is home to a variety of wildlife such as leopards, tigers, elephants, gaur and several species of deer. An EIA study is the bare minimum before such clearances are issued,” said Biswajit Roy Chowdhury a member of the board.