“Most citizen conservation campaigns are limited to rhetoric”

The Karnataka State Board for Wildlife has become a vehicle for obtaining project permissions, while its responsibility is to advise the government on conservation policies and programs, says the conservation biologist and board member. Sanjay Gubbi in an email interview with DH Anitha Pailoor.

There have been criticisms of the permission given for projects within the forest limits in the state…

Some projects that have serious ecological consequences are cleared without offering any possibility of field inspection by external experts, and the authorization is not based on available scientific information, the ecological importance of the area, or will against expert advice. Two recent examples are the Hubballi-Ankola railway line and the Sharavathi pumped storage project.

As for the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL), members don’t even get enough notice of the meeting, to study the documents and be well prepared with reasonable arguments. That said, it would be unfair to ignore those people, both in the board and in government, who have truly fought for conservation, even if they have lost some battles.

I am happy that we have been able to stop many ecologically destructive projects. Many of my proposals, including improving the state’s protected area network of nearly 7,50,000 acres, providing additional social security measures such as wildlife allowance to front-line staff, the sanctioning of hundreds of new front-line staff positions in the Forestry Department, the increase of ex-gratia to families who suffer from human-wildlife conflict and several other such initiatives have been put in place successfully implemented. As always, it’s been a mixed bag and we’ve been unable to stop a few destructive projects.

Is the government setting aside citizen campaigns and expert concerns against projects that could harm the environment irreversibly?

Unfortunately, most citizen conservation campaigns these days are limited to rhetorical outcry on social media or models based on generating revenue using online petitions. Wildlife conservation for many is a fashion statement. Unfortunately, these social media heroes are becoming the face of conservation and misleading the public, the media, and most importantly, the younger generation. Although many young people have the right intentions, they are deceived by these social media heroes. The number of individuals who succeed in achieving measurable changes in the field is very limited.

Is the government ignoring nature’s repeated warnings?

The government is certainly ignoring the warnings. But I wouldn’t blame the political leaders alone. Commercial interests, bureaucrats and even the general public do not take these clues seriously. We seem to focus on short-term personal gain rather than irreparable damage to our forests, wildlife, and future generations, including our children.

There are concerns about the operation of SBWL…

The State Board for Wildlife began to rise to prominence in the mid-2000s when the Forest Department began seeking board approval for proposed projects in protected areas. This brought a lot of media attention to the council and people with little or no knowledge of wildlife or wildlife policies began to aspire to be on the council. Nowadays, most unofficial members are appointed to the board using their political influence. In addition, some people who have been convicted under the Forest and Wildlife Acts for serious offenses have also been appointed to the State Wildlife Board of Karnataka. These two tendencies have serious consequences. A hotelier, who was a board member until recently, has effectively stopped notifying the pristine rainforests around Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary as a protected area because he owns power generation projects at the inside these forests.

The council now becomes a means of obtaining project authorizations or of advertising in the media, while its duty is to advise the government in the selection and management of protected areas, the formulation of policies for the conservation of wildlife and harmonizing the needs of forest dwellers. and wildlife conservation.

Do we have enough legal provisions to stem the destruction of the environment?

India has one of the best wildlife, forest and environmental conservation laws. But the shortfall is in its implementation. However, even these laws are now being watered down in the name of “ease of doing business”. Moreover, political and bureaucratic commitment has been greatly weakened over the years.

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