PM discusses recovery plans for endangered species at NWB meeting

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New Delhi, Nov 01 (UNI) The National Wildlife Board, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, today discussed recovery plans for a number of endangered wildlife species.

The Prime Minister suggested formation of expert committees for identifying the species whose recovery plans should be taken up on a priority basis, a senior official of the Ministry of Environment told UNI.

He said measures for conservation of species like the great Indian Bustard, snow leopard of Himalayas, Markhor, a type of wild goat and Hangul-a Kashmiri stag were put before the Prime Minister.

Besides, the meeting also discussed recovery plans for many marine species, including the threatened turtles. In this case too, Dr Singh wanted formation of expert committees to prioritise the plans.

The meeting devoted substantial time to tiger protection measures, especially against the backdrop of the Forest Rights Act which the wildlife activists and officials feel would affect conservation of the big cats' habitat.

With mounting demographic pressures, there are today a number of species which are gravely endangered and their long term survival can be ensured only if a determined effort is undertaken to initiate specific recovery plans.

The National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016) adopted during the XXI meeting of the Indian Board for Wildlife held in January 2002 entails that the isolation of animal species due to fragmentation of habitats reduces their populations to unviable levels, leading to local extinctions.

Some of the important species exist as isolated populations in the country. They include, the Wild Buffalo, Malabar Civet, Hangul, Uriyal, Pigmy Hog, Gangetic Dolphins, Nicobar Megapode, Andaman Teal, White Winged Wood Duck, Greater Adjutant Stork, Jerdons' Courser.

The National Forest Commission Report-2006 has also identified many species, including the species mentioned above, for which a recovery programme could be initiated.

The approach could be twin fold. Firstly, a landscape approach in the fashion of Project Tiger and Project Elephant could be taken up for species like Snow Leopard, Asiatic Lions, Hangul, Great Indian Bustard (inclusive of all the Bustard species) and Gangetic Dolphins, etc, while for the other species, there could be specific detailed recovery programme with a time schedule.

All these issues came under discussion at the Board meeting attended by senior officials of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The official said the demand of some hill states for early release of funds for wildlife protection was also discussed and the Prime Minister assured that the Planning Commission would examine the demand.

States like Himachal Pradesh have their wildlife sanctuaries and national parks wholly or partly situated above 3000 mt altitude.

Under the present system of release of Centrally Sponsored Scheme funds (which is made in two installments), the first payment is received in June and by the time this installment is made available to State Wildlife Wing in terms of State budgetary allocation, it is July or August. Thereafter, the monsoon commences and goes on till September, says the state.

In October, altitudes above 3000 mt become frigid and most works cannot be carried out. For release of the second installment, the Wildlife Wing is expected to spend over 60-80 per cent of the first installment by that time. By the time the second installment gets released, it is already winter and many of the areas are under snow.

It is therefore, only reasonable to release funds under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes either by April and also the entire amount sanctioned in one installment, says the state.

UNI

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