Makes consultation with gram sabhas mandatory for notifying wildlife sanctuaries and national parks
The Union Cabinet has approved the amendments in the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. Under the new guidelines, state governments will have to consult the village council (gram sabha) while notifying wildlife sanctuaries and national parks across the country.
The Cabinet has also made it mandatory to consult gram sabhas in the matters of management and maintenance of sanctuaries and national parks. In the existing Act, there is no provision for any consultation or consent with village council in the notification process of protected areas. The job is done by state governments.
However, wildlife activists say that the word “consultation” has no meaning till there is “consent”, which has not been specified in the note circulated by the Cabinet. “What consultation means is not clear,” says Ashish Kothari, founder member of Kalpvriksh, a non-profit based in Pune. “My experience tells me that consultation has no meaning unless there is consent of the village council. Consultation generally has been a formality, a cursory process,” he adds. Tushar Dash from Bhubaneswar based non-profit, Vasundhara, says that consent from village council while notifying a protected area is a more internally accepted norm.
Dash further points out that the statement by the Cabinet only talks of consultation with gram sabha in the notification process of only sanctuaries and national parks and not of tiger reserves. “It may be because the provision for consultation with village councils in the notification process of tiger reserves already exists. But, even in case of tiger reserves we have been demanding that the word ‘consultation’ should also include consent. No heed has been paid to that,” he adds.
The note also says that the representatives of panchayat or tribal community will now be included in the Community Reserve Management Committee of protected areas.
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