Man Vs Wild India : Attempting to Balance Development and Sustainability
India is rich in biodiversity and wildlife, a characteristic that any other country would be envious of. India is a home to an array of beautiful creatures of the forest and a diverse selection of rare fauna. It is for this reason that it is more saddening when we witness the first-hand violence between man and nature and man’s apathy towards nature.
We are the same country that a few generations ago was hunting down tigers for Royal Shikar; had its last Cheetah fall to a hunting bullet; coveted Ivory as exotic ornaments engaged in mass deforestation to satiate the lust for resources in a bourgeoning a young nation. However, a lot has changed: commercial hunting is legally banned and largely socially taboo as well. There is a more tangible care for wildlife; forests are being valued for ecosystem and biodiversity services. The country has made an ambitious solar power plan, even as the US under Trump shies away from climate action commitments.
India has broadly done well in stopping the commercial hunting of species. It had more than 2000 Tigers at last count. However, in the same breadth, Tiger deaths related to poaching has reached an all-time high in India, according to a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Following it, the WWF has called upon tiger-range governments to crack down on wildlife poaching and snaring that is threatening wildlife across Asia, especially the world’s remaining wild tigers, which number only around 3,900.
Just before World Elephant Day on August 12, an elephant was shot in Jharkhand on charges of going “rogue” and killing people. A quick scan of headlines seems to suggest that India is part of the daily human-wildlife conflict. ‘One human killed each day in last 3 years as conflict with wildlife escalates’ said a headline recently, responding to the environment ministry data that claimed 1,144 people have died in interactions with wildlife in the past three years. The reasons, though, not always have to concern the wild animals. Planning for developmental projects is ignoring environmental concerns such as ignoring animal migration, movement, and needs.
The main problem with animal migration is that environmental clearances are given without much impact analysis. The Environment Impact Assessment Notification of India, the law that sets the course for environmental appraisals, was created in 2006, an update from previous provisions under the Environment (Protection) Rules. While the law envisages a fair appraisal process, both the UPA and NDA government has done its best to weaken it.
The present government has a motto of ‘ease of business’ and also it previously attempted to amend environmental laws through a high-level committee. Currently, through a series of memos, it has undercut the appraisals and exempted several industry sectors. It has allowed post facto clearances and reduced the time for clearance processes without simultaneously strengthening environmental safeguards. A new draft notification even exempts big buildings and construction projects from submitting themselves to these protocols. This kind of cutting corners with the sole aim of only getting profits without thought for the impact it will have on the wildlife.
Last month, one of the world’s greatest national parks was submerged, yet the Indian Government showed apathy despite more than 80 percent of Kazaringa being under water and several animals perishing in the deluge. While India still grapples with the conflict between man and his wild neighbor, the land is at a premium and only to get more into our green forests. Can India make the choice between the nature being crushed underfoot by the ease of doing business? Or will ecological wisdom thrive? Faced with climate change, as well as many other environmental forces, Will India be able to make the right choice?
Author: Prathik Kartikeyan
College: Jindal Global Law School
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