BENGALURU: Seven members of the Karnataka State Wildlife Board have asked the chief minister (who is the Board Chairman) to permit them to use their vehicles in protected areas (PAs) as they claim being appointed under Chapter II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which allows them this privilege. Criticising this, both forest officials and wildlife activists say that under no circumstances permission should be granted as their duties are limited. Further, grant of such permissions will lead to a plethora of demands by other people.
The letter dated October 6 was written by Dr Shivprakash, Ramachadra Shetty, G Malleshappa and others claims that under Section 27 (A) of the WPA, they are allowed entry in the core areas of PAs. “As nominated members of the Board, we should be permitted to use our own vehicles to enter protected forest areas under intimation of vehicle numbers to the Chief Wildlife Warden. This permission would reduce the pressure on authorities to provide vehicles.”
Chief Wildlife Warden C Jayaram told Express that since the letter was not addressed to him, he was unaware of the contents. However, he added, “The government has to take a call on this. It is not correct on my part to comment on the issue.”Forest officials say that the Board members cannot go beyond their duties as stated in the Wildlife Protection Act. They are here in an advisory capacity and have a limited role to play.
Appealing to the chief minister not to give permission, wildlife activists say this will open the Pandora’s Box and everybody will ask for such permits. Most nominated members are political appointees with no knowledge of wildlife and its habitat. Further, the Act does not allow any ‘non-official’ to use any private vehicles in PAs.
They add, “Unfortunately, in 2016, the then chief wildlife warden had given permission (on September 7, 2016) to Board members and based on this, the CF of Bhadra Tiger Reserve (on September 19, 2016) had permitted an influential member to use his two private vehicles in tiger reserve. This member had gone inside the core areas of the Reserve by taking his family and friends for a party while the order stated — permission was only for the Board member.”
Santosh, an activist adds, “Instead of discussing whether such permits are legal or valid, we should debate on the need of such a facility. Major issues related to conservation happen outside PAs and within administrative offices. It will be good if they set their priorities right.”