CITES, round 12

Sustainable use of wildlife comes to the fore; India remains backward

Published: Sunday 15 December 2002

the 12th Conference of Parties (cop-12) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (cites), held in Chile between November 3 and November 15, breathed a fresh lease of air into wildlife management. It brought sustainable use and economic incentives back on the agenda.

Three African states were allowed to sell some ivory stock: Botswana, 20 tonnes; Namibia, 10 tonnes; South Africa, 30 tonnes. A terrible compromise: these countries had demanded they be allowed to sell existing stocks via annual quotas. Zimbabwe, symbol of community-based conservation, lost out to the dirty politics of the industrialised world, ever interested in any facade for trade hegemony (see: Pig-headed species). The us openly admitted it had canvassed against the economic logic Zimbabwe stood for.

cites actually tried to change its character. It sought to align itself with agencies that promote sustainable use of natural resources, like the Food and Agricultural Organization. It widened its ambit; for the first time marine species were proposed for inclusion on its appendices. Among other things, this has placed upon the cites process the pressure to stop delaying exactly what it means by 'sustainable use'. Hopefully, it will have the courage to define it.

Now let us turn to India, cop-12 flounderer and satisfied to be so. Confusion within the Union ministry of environment and forests -- both deliberate and unplanned, we think -- ensured a country position that never matured to a stance.

India's delegates are always compromising. They have begun drawing sniggers from other country delegates. We dont know if they mind it; what we do know is the government is happy with it. it thinks the world thinks it is pro-conservation. It forgets the world watches how it practices conservation.

An amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, is in the offing. As usual it is a big secret. We found the bill wishes to a)further restrict people's right over usufructs; b) create new kinds of protected areas, effectively allowing them to now control such patches of forests as sacred groves; and c)make evictions easier and diminish, even further, peoples' right to contest official diktat.

What governance. We dare not expect it to perform democratically at international fora.

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