India ranks sixth among the 12-mega biodiversity countries of the world. Conservation of biodiversity is directly linked with conservation of ecosystems and thus with water and food security. These together constitute a major plank of Indian economy.
Whereas National planning has not taken into account the adverse ecological consequences of shrinkage and degradation of wilderness from the pressures of population and commercialization. As a result, India is witnessing the alarming erosion of our natural heritage, which comprises rivers, aquifers, forests, grasslands, mountains, wetlands, coastal and marine habitats, arid lands and deserts. This has also affected natural phenomena such as breeding, ranging and migration of wildlife and geomorphological features.
Hence the government has unveiled 3rd National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) 2017-2031. It accords special emphasis to rehabilitation of threatened species of wildlife while conserving their habitats which include inland aquatic, coastal and marine eco-systems.
Proposals of the draft plan are:
• Each PA should have its own management plan, based on sound scientific and ecological data. Strict conservation zones will require more protection than management. These areas should be free of all urban facilities, tourism and public thoroughfare. Degraded habitats, or areas where conditions need to be created to favour endangered species, will also need extra-careful managing and monitoring.
• The plan seeks to put all protected areas and wildlife corridors out of bounds for all mining activities and big irrigation projects.
• It has stated restrictions on number of tourists and vehicles entering a protected area.
• It states that while tourism in the wildlife areas needs to be encouraged, it must be strictly monitored and regulated and an emphasis must be placed on tourism facilities that are sustainable, environment-friendly, moderately priced, clean and wholesome, rather than lavish.
• The draft plan calls for new regional forensic laboratories, a Special Tiger Protection Force, and setting up of special courts to deal with wildlife crime like poaching and smuggling.
• It also emphasizes on 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.
• 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.
• Areas outside the protected area network are often vital ecological corridor links and must be protected to prevent isolation of fragments of biodiversity, which will not survive in the long run. Land and water use policies will need to accept the imperative of strictly protecting ecologically fragile habitats and regulating use elsewhere.
Human, wilderness and wildlife are irrevocably interlinked. With mounting agricultural, industrial and demographic pressures, wilderness areas, which are the richest repositories of wildlife and biodiversity have need to be conserved. Their continued existence is crucial for the long-term survival of the biodiversity and the ecosystems supporting them.