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Wild Life Protection Act 1972

  • India is the first country in the world to have made provisions for the protection and conservation of the environment in its constitution. On 5th June 1972, the environment was first discussed as an item of international agenda in the U.N. Conference of Human Environment in Stockholm. Thereafter, 5th June is celebrated worldwide as World Environment Day.
  • Soon after the Stockholm Conference our country took substantive legislative steps for environmental protection. The Wildlife (Protection) Act was passed in 1972, followed by the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and subsequently the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Constitutional Provisions

  • The provisions for environmental protection in the constitution were made within four years of Stockholm Conference, in 1976, though the 42nd amendment as follows:
  • Article-48-A of the constitution provides
  • “The state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard forest and wildlife of the country.”
  • Article 51-A (g) Provides:
  • It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.”
  • Thus our constitution includes environmental protection and conservation as one of our fundamental duties. Some of the important Acts passed by the Government of India are discussed here.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972

  • The passing of the Wildlife Act of 1972 constitutes an important landmark in the country's history of wildlife legislation.
  • Because the “Forest ” including “Wildlife” was then a State subject falling in Entry 20 List II of Seventh Schedule, Parliament had no power to make law on the same except as provided in Articles 249,250 and 252 of the constitution.
  • Regarding the importance of the matter, the Act has been adopted by all the States except that of Jammu and Kashmir which has a similar law enacted for wildlife protection. The operation of the Act is mandatory in the Union Territories too.
  • The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 provides the basic framework to ensure wildlife protection and management. The Act was amended subsequently in 1982, 1986, 1991 and 1993 to accommodate its effective implementation.

The rationale for passing Act as stated in its Statement of Objects and Reasons are as follows:

  • The rapid decline of India’s wild animals and birds, one of the country's richest and most varied wildlife resources, has been a cause of grave concern.
  • Areas which were once teeming with wildlife have become devoid of it and even in sanctuaries and National Parks the protection afforded to wildlife needs to be improved.
  • The Wild Birds and Animals Protection Act, 1935 has become completely outdated.
  • These existing laws have become outdated and provide punishments, which are not commensurate with the offence and financial benefits that occur from poaching and trade in wildlife produce. Further, such laws mainly relate to the control of hunting and do not emphasize the other factors that are also the prime reasons for the decline of India’s wildlife namely taxidermy and trade in wildlife and products.

Salient features of the Act

  • The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is a product of a process which started long ago in 1887 for the protection of a few wild birds and after addition of wild animals in 1912 and specified plants in 1919 it covered almost all the wildlife resources which need protection and management.
    (i) The Schedules I to V rating is under the risk of survival of the wildlife (fauna) enlisted in them. Animals included Schedule are provided for total protection from hunting and the trade and commerce related to such animals are strictly regulated. The schedule VI has been added to include the specified plant species to be protected by the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 1991.
    (ii) An expert committee, constituted by the Indian Board of Wildlife considers amendments to the Act, as and when necessary.
    (iii) With the amendment of the Act in 1991, the State Governments' powers have been withdrawn almost totally. Now the State Governments are not empowered to declare any wild animal a vermin. Further by addition of provision, immunization of livestock within a radius of 5 km from a National Park or sanctuary has been made compulsory.

Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

  • As compared to all other previous laws on environment protection, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is a more effective and bold measure to fight pollution.
  • The genesis of the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986, thus, is in Article 48A (Directive Principles of State Policy) and Article 51A (g) (Fundamental Duties) of the Indian Constitution.
  • The Act empowers the Central Government to take all appropriate measures to prevent and control pollution and establish effective machinery to protect and improve the quality of the environment and protect controlling and abating environmental pollution.
  • The Central Government or any other person duly authorised is empowered to collect the samples of air, water, soil or other substances as evidence of the offences under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • The Act prescribes a special procedure for handling hazardous substances and the concerned person has to handle the hazardous substances according to the Act's procedure.
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 has relaxed the rule of “Locus Standi” and because of such relaxation even a common citizen can approach the Court provided he has given a notice of sixty days of the alleged offence and his intention to make a complaint to the Central Government or any other competent authority.
  • This Act also empowers and authorises the Central Government to issue directions for the operation or process, prohibition, closure, or industry regulation. The Central Government is also authorised to stop, regulate the supply of electricity or water or any other service directly without obtaining the Court's order in this regard.
  • The Act consists of and deals with more stringent penal provisions. The minimum penalty for contravention or violation of any law provision is an imprisonment for a term that may extend to five years or fine up to one lakh rupees, or both. The Act also provides for the further penalty if the failure or contravention continues after the date of conviction. It is Rs. 5000/- per day. If the failure of contravention continues beyond one year, then the offender is punished with imprisonment for a term that may extend to seven years.
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 grants immunity to the Government's officers for any act done under the provisions of this Act or under the powers vested in them or functions assigned to them under this Act.
  • The Act debars the Civil Courts from having any jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceeding in respect of an action, direction, order issued by Central Government or other statutory authority under this Act.
  • Under the Act, there will be supremacy of provision. In other words, the provisions of this Act and the rules or orders made under this Act shall have effect and supremacy over anything inconsistent contained in any enactment other than this Act

National Forest Policy 1988

  • National Forest Policy, 1988 is to ensure environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance including atmospheric equilibrium which are vital for sustenance of all life forms, human, animal and plant.

Objectives

  • Conserving the country's natural heritage by preserving the remaining natural forests with the vast variety of flora and fauna, which represent the remarkable biological diversity and genetic resources of the country.
  • Checking soil erosion and denudation in the catchments areas of rivers, lakes, reservoirs in the “interest of soil and water conservation, for mitigating floods and droughts and for the retardation of siltation of reservoirs.
  • Checking the extension of sand-dunes in the desert areas of Rajasthan and along the coastal tracts.
  • Increasing substantially the forest/tree cover in the country through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes, especially on all denuded, degraded and unproductive lands.
  • Increasing the productivity of forests to meet essential national needs.
  • Encouraging efficient utilisation of forest produce and maximising substitution of wood.

The major achievements of National Forest Policy, 1988,

  • Increase in the forest and tree cover.
  • Involvement of local communities in the protection, conservation and management of forests through Joint Forest Management Programme.
  • Meeting the fuel wood requirement, fodder minor forest produce and small timber of the rural and tribal populations.
  • Conservation of Biological Diversity and Genetic Resources of the country through ex-situ and in-situ conservation measures.
  • Significant contribution in maintenance of environment and ecological stability in the country.

Biological Diversity Act, 2002

  • The Biological Diversity Act 2002 was born out of India’s attempt to realize the objectives enshrined in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 1992 which recognizes states' sovereign rights to use their own Biological Resources.
  • An Act to provide for conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources, knowledge and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Objectives

  • Conservation of biological diversity
  • Sustainable use of its components; and
  • Fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources.
    (i) The Act envisages a three-tier structure to regulate access to the biological resources, comprising of National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBB) and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) at the local level

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006

  • Forest Rights Act, 2006 provides for the restitution of deprived forest rights across India, including individual rights to cultivated land in forestland and community rights over common property resources.
  • The Act is significant as it provides scope and historic opportunity of integrating conservation and livelihood rights of the people.

The Union Finance Ministry has also slashed the Centre’s share of non-recurring expenditure from 100% to 60%, for Project Tiger, leaving the remaining amount for the respective states to manage. However, in special status states, which includes the three Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu Kashmir and Uttarakhand and the Northeastern states, the ratio is 90:10.

FRA is a potential tool

  • To empower and strengthen the local self governance 
  • To address the livelihood security of the people 
  • To address the issues of Conservation and management of the Natural Resources and conservation governance of India.
  • For the first time Forest Rights Act recognises and secures
    (i) Community Rights in addition to their individual rights
    (ii) Right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource that the communities have traditionally been protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
    (iii) Right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge related to biodiversity and cultural diversity
    (iv) Rights of displaced communities & Rights over developmental activities
The document Act And Policies- 1 | Environment for UPSC CSE is a part of the UPSC Course Environment for UPSC CSE.
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FAQs on Act And Policies- 1 - Environment for UPSC CSE

1. What is the purpose of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972?
Ans. The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 is aimed at protecting and preserving the wildlife and their habitats in India. It provides legal support for the conservation and management of wildlife species, as well as their habitats.
2. What are the constitutional provisions related to wildlife protection in India?
Ans. The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 is based on Article 48A and Article 51A(g) of the Indian Constitution. Article 48A states that the state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. Article 51A(g) imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, including wildlife.
3. What are the salient features of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972?
Ans. The salient features of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 include the establishment of protected areas such as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, regulation of hunting and poaching, prohibition of trade in wildlife, control of captive breeding of wildlife, and the appointment of wildlife wardens and other authorities for the enforcement of the Act.
4. How does the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 relate to wildlife protection?
Ans. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 complements the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 by providing a framework for the protection and improvement of the environment in general. While the Wildlife Act specifically focuses on wildlife and their habitats, the Environment Act covers broader aspects of environmental protection, including pollution control, conservation of natural resources, and environmental impact assessments.
5. What are some of the key provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972?
Ans. Some key provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 include the prohibition of hunting, poaching, and capturing of wildlife species listed in the Act, the establishment of protected areas for the conservation of wildlife, the regulation of trade and commerce in wildlife and their products, and the appointment of wildlife authorities and wardens for effective implementation of the Act.
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