DRAFT NATIONAL WILDLIFE ACTION PLAN 2017-31 : Civil Services Mentor Magazine: NOVEMBER - 2017


::Draft National Wildlife action plan 2017-31::

Protected Areas (PAs) are clearly defined geographical spaces, recognized, dedicated and managed through legal and other effective means to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. The PAs provide a wide range of social, environmental and economic benefits to the people worldwide. In a rapidly changing world where natural ecosystems are under severe pressure, the PAs, when governed and managed effectively, can provide nature based solutions to environmental problems and serve as integral component of sustainable development. Section 3.3 of the National Forest Policy,1988 states ,"For the conservation of total biological diversity, the network of national parks, sanctuaries, biosphere reserves and other protected areas should be strengthened and extended adequately".

At the beginning of the second National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) (2002-2016), there were only about 400 PAs covering an area around 1.56 lakh sq. km. in the country. Presently, there are a total of 726 PAs in the country covering 1.60 lakh sq. km. i.e., 4.88% of the geographical area. The following table gives the break-up of various categories of PAs in the country:

Current status of the PA Network in India as on November 2015

Total Area (sq.km) % Coverage
National Parks 103 40500.13 1.23
Wildlife Sanctuaries 531 117607.72 3.58
Conservation Reserves 66 2344.53 0.07
Community Reserves 26 46.93 0.001
Total Protected Areas 726 160499.31 4.88

In addition to the PA network mentioned above, the managed forests under the State Forest Departments (SFDs) are also contributing towards wildlife conservation. Thus, India has over 20% of the total geographical area under effective wildlife conservation, thereby exceeding the target of 17% envisaged in the Aichi Target 11. However, wildlife in the urban landscapes and other human habitations as well as the marine and coastal biodiversity need more conservation attention.

The previous NWAP recommended a number of measures to strengthen the PA network and enhance their management effectiveness. These included: five-yearly review of the existing PA network in the country; establishment of new PAs; development of guidelines and identification of sites for setting up Conservation Reserve and Community Reserves; implementation of the recommendations given in the Wildlife Institute of India's (WII) PA network report; completion of legal procedures for final notification of existing and new PAs; readjustments of boundaries of PAs, where required, in accordance with ecological and natural features; and preparation of scientific and ecologically sound management plans for all PAs. There has been varying success in achieving these targets.

Several Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves have been notified, albeit their area is still very small. Several Wildlife Sanctuaries (WLS) have since been upgraded to National Parks (NPs). Similarly, a number of PAs have been enlisted as Natural World Heritage Sites (NWHS) where globally significant species or ecosystems are being protected. Further, in compliance with India's commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in respect of PAs, the Government of India hasformulated 10 National Biodiversity Targets (NBT) in 2014, of which, Target 6 aligns with the Aichi Target 11 that deals with strengthening the PA network in the country [Ref. National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP). The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has been fulfilling its mandate within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (WPA-1972) for strengthening tiger conservation in the country by retaining an oversight through advisories/normative guidelines based on appraisal of population status of tiger, ongoing conservation initiatives and recommendations of specially constituted Committees. Several PAs have been notified as Tiger Reserves (TRs) since the initiation of the second NWAP. Beginning with 9 TRs in 1973, the number of TRs has gone up to 48 (Rajaji NP in Uttarakhand being the latest), encompassing about 2.12% of total geographical area of the country. 'Project Tiger' is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) of the MoEFCC providing funding support to the tiger range States for in-situ conservation of tigers in designated TRs, and has put the endangered tiger on an assured path of recovery by saving it from extinction, as revealed by the recent findings of the All India tiger estimation of 2226 (1945-2491) tigers with 1540 (1686) individual photographs of adults using the refined methodology.

However there were certain inadequacies in the previous NWAP. Considering the inadequacy of the PA network in certain biogeographic zones; challenges of meeting the biomass needs of poor people; and need for much more effective and interactive monitoring of the PA network, the following actions and projects are recommended for the next NWAP (2017-2031):

1. Undertake periodic review of the status of Protected Areas in India.

2. Expedite the process of settlement of rights in the existing or proposed PAs.

3. Enhance the PA network by including terrestrial, inland water and coastal/marine areas of high conservation values and by integrating PAs into wider landscapes and seascapes as per the Target 11 of the NBAP.

4. Complete the process of rationalisation and demarcation of boundaries and zonation for effective management of PAs.

5. Prepare Integrated and Adaptive Management Plans for all the PAs.

6. Promote use of modern tools for monitoring and surveillance of highly sensitive PAs.

7. Assess, monitor and manage the alien invasive species inside PAs and TRs

8. Secure wildlife corridors and also draw appropriate plans for their management.

9. Improve the capacity of frontline staff for better monitoring and management of PAs.

10. Involve local communities in protection and management of PAs.

The Plan is based on the premise that essential ecological processes that are governed, supported or strongly moderated by ecosystems, are essential for food production, health and other aspects of human survival and sustainable development. And maintenance of these ecosystems which can be termed as 'Life Support Systems' is vital for all societies regardless of their stage of development. It also emphasizes on other two aspects of living resource conservation viz. preservation of genetic diversity and sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems which has direct bearing on our scientific advancements and support to millions of rural communities.

The Plan adopts landscape approach in conservation of all uncultivated flora and undomesticated fauna that has ecological value to mankind irrespective of where they occur. It accords special emphasis to rehabilitation of threatened species of wildlife while conserving their habitats which include inland aquatic, coastal and marine eco-systems. It also takes note of concerns relating to climate change on wildlife by integrating it in to wildlife management Planning.

It underlines the fact that despite being one of 12 mega biodiversity countries of the world, national planning has not taken serious note of adverse ecological consequences of reduction and degradation of wilderness areas from the pressures of population, commercialization and development projects. Accordingly, the plan has brought to focus the alarming erosion of our natural heritage comprising of rivers, forests, grasslands, mountains, wetlands, coastal and marine habitats arid lands and deserts.

The plan underscores the increasing need for people's support for conservation of wildlife and to this effect recommends strengthening the 'core buffer multiple use surround' structure with higher inputs for eco-development, education, innovation, training, extension, conservation awareness and outreach programs. Wildlife health is yet another area which receives attention in this Plan. Management of tourism in wildlife areas with related plough back mechanism, development of Human resource and Staff welfare has undergone reorientation in the Plan.

The plan is alive to communities, inhabiting forest lands and other wilderness areas, to be treated appropriately in the light of Forest Rights Act and their inadequacy of resources and strong dependence on natural biomass resource. The plan takes note of and addresses rising human animal conflict owing to shrinkage , fragmentation and deterioration of habitats generating animosity against wild animals and protected areas.

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