Rajesh Gopal Committee On Wildlife Protection Act

The Centre has begun a review of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), enacted in 1972 and last amended in 2006 under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance I.

The union environment ministry has constituted a six-member drafting committee to this effect which has met twice till now.

The committee’s mandate is to bring the Act in tune with present-day challenges such as human-wildlife conflict, illegal trade of wildlife and forest produce, management of wildlife outside protected areas and population control of certain species. The ministry may also consider revising the provisions of punishment and penalty for wildlife crimes in the revised Act.

The committee comprises of Rajesh Gopal, former director of Project Tiger, BS Bonal, former member secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority; Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO of World Wildlife India and senior ministry officials.

The government brought out the National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) 2017-31 last year which has already talked about the current challenges. But there are certain issues that not under the purview of WPA.

One area the ministry likely to focus on is CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). CITES is an international agreement between governments to prevent unsustainable and illegal trade of wild animals and plants. The country is obliged to undertake necessary steps to prevent illegal trade or transfer of wildlife and wildlife articles which are prohibited or regulated under provisions of CITES.

The Wildlife Protection Act is the key central legislation that provides protection to wild animals and plants and criminalizes hunting of protected species. The Act also accords different levels of protection to wild animals based on their conservation status or abundance. Protected areas such as national parks and sanctuaries are recognized under this Act. Presently, 4.89% of the country’s geographical area is covered under protected areas and they are covered under WPA.