There has been a hue and cry over the newly reconstituted National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) as the same has inadequate representation from NGOs, eminent conservationists/ecologists/environmentalists and States from what is stipulated in the law. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (Section 5A of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972) mandates that 10 States (by rotation), 10 ecologists/conservationists/environmentalists and 5 NGOs need to be present in the 47 member body of the NBWL whereas the newly constituted NBWL has representatives only from 5 States, 2 ecologists/conservationists/environmentalists and 1 NGO.
It is pertinent to note that the role played by the NBWL and the Standing Committee to the NBWL in regulating developmental and other activities in and around protected areas is crucial with the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (hereinafter the WLPA) vesting regulatory, recommendatory, advisory and consultative powers with the NBWL and the Standing Committee to the NBWL. The Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest on 19th December 2012 on taking up non-forestry activities in wildlife habitats (hereinafter the Guidelines) states that to undertake any non-forestry activities in any wild habitats, the project proponents requires Environmental Clearance, Forest Clearance and NBWL Clearance, making NBWL clearance another clearance process.
The details of the regulatory role of NBWL and the Standing Committee are provided below:
Regulation of Activities in protected areas
The NBWL is empowered under the WLPA, to
- Recommend on matters relating to restriction of activities in national parks, sanctuaries and other protected areas (Section 5C(2) (b), WLPA,);
- Carry out or cause to carry out impact assessment of various projects and activities on wildlife or its habitat (Section 5C(2)(c), WLPA);
- Give prior approval of NBWL is for undertaking construction activities for commercial tourist lodges, hotels, zoos and safari parks in sanctuaries (proviso to Section 33(a), WLPA);
- Recommend any alteration to the boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries. (Section 35(5) and Section 26A(3), WLPA);
- Be consulted before the Chief Wildlife Warden grants permit to use or divert the habitat of any wild animal or forest produce from national parks (Section 35(6), WLPA);
- Give approval for diversion of tiger reserves (Section 38(O)(1) (g), WLPA);
- Give approval for alternation boundaries of tiger reserve, de-notification of tiger reserve (Section 38W(1) and (2)).
The powers mentioned in (1) and (2) have been delegated to the Standing Committee of the NBWL by notification dated 4th November 2003
The Honorable Supreme Court of India by order dated 9th May 2002 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 337/1995 has directed that all projects in both national parks and sanctuaries require the Supreme Court’s approval based on the recommendations of the Standing Committee of NBWL.
Hence, any project in national parks and sanctuaries requires the recommendation of the Standing Committee of NBWL and the approval of the Supreme Court which will be based on the recommendation of the Standing Committee.
Regulation of Activities within 10 kms of national parks and sanctuaries
As per the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India dated 4th December 2006 in Goa Foundation v. Union of India, to undertake activities within 10 kms of national parks and sanctuaries, the recommendations of the Standing Committee of NBWL is required.
Procedure for consideration of proposals
Procedure for consideration of proposals is described in the Guidelines and it requires the project proponent to submit the performa as provided in the Guidelines. The procedure involves and includes comments from Chief Wildlife Warden and recommendations of State Board for Wildlife on the proposal which will be considered by the Standing Committee of the NBWL. The NBWL can also undertake site inspection in case proposal involves large scale diversion of forest/wildlife habitat or if impact of proposal is serious. Based on the performa, comments of the State Board and Chief Wildlife Warden, site inspection, the Standing Committee may recommend the proposal. The user agency/State government, thereafter, has to approach the Hon’ble Supreme Court for its final approval.