Two ministries at war over wildlife zones
There seems to be a turf war brewing between the environment ministry and misitry of tribal affairs over declaration of critical wildlife habitats in over 600 national parks and sanctuaries.
The government is required to notify critical wildlife habitats so that the state governments can relocate the people living there after settling their rights under the watershed Forest Rights Act.
Both ministries have claimed that issuing the guidelines to notify the habitats to harbour viable wildlife population of endemic to a particular forest area is their job.
The environment ministry has proposed to declare 800-1,000 sq kms in 41 tiger reserves and area as specified by the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in national parks and sanctuaries as critical wildlife habitats.
The proposed guidelines also stipulate the process for declaring the habitats by the states in consultation with the experts. The ministry had assured to provide Rs 10 lakh to the state government for relocation of each family from the forest areas for declaring inviolate (empty) areas for wildlife conservation.The ministry last year sent the proposed guidelines to the tribal affairs ministry for vetting and approval. Once the approval was given, the ministry had planned to notify the guidelines to be applicable under the Forest Rights Act.
Now, the tribal ministry has objected to notification and has said they are mandated under the Act to prescribe rules. As the Forest Rights Act of 2006 is applicable mostly to tribal areas in India, its implementation and monitoring is work of the tribal ministry.
Terming the tribal affairs claim as an afterthought, the environment ministry officials claimed it had notified the earlier guidelines to declare the critical wildlife habitats, which were withdrawn in 2009 after objections by forest right activists.