Towards a researcher-friendly Wildlife Protection Act

Law may be tweaked to prevent delay, denial of permission for studies

Towards a researcher-friendly Wildlife Protection Act

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is drafting rules to amend the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, to facilitate researchers to undertake studies in forest areas. 

This follows complaints from researchers, conservationists and students who face problems in getting permission to conduct studies in the wild, especially in the pristine Western Ghats. 

“There is a proposal to facilitate more regulated research in wildlife areas. For this, there is a need to amend the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

 This will help ensure that there is no delay in getting permission. At the same time, this will help make sure that rules are not broken. It will also ensure that forest areas are not disturbed,” S K Khanduri, Inspector General of Forests (Wildlife), MoEF, told Deccan Herald. 

This, he said, was being done because the MoEF had received many complaints from researchers, that they were either denied permission or there was a two-three year delay in granting permission. There are also instances in which forest officials have misbehaved with researchers, he added. 

Since many applications pour in for research and field study in Western Ghats alone, there is a need to regulate the flow. The qualification of the researcher will also be specified for permissions, Khanduri said.

He said that another reason for the amendment was to prevent friction between conservation groups. This, in turn, is said to be influencing forest department officials. Also, it has come to the notice of the MoEF that some individuals, to enhance their credentials through studies on wildlife species, are being permitted to undertake research, he said. The amendment is likely to be brought in by January 2015.

He said that the draft was prepared and was being reviewed. Objections to the amendment would be invited soon. 

P K Mathur, Dean of the Wildlife Institute of India, said that the MoEF had been working on this for the last four months. “Our researchers too have pointed out instances of denial because of issues relating to documentation, subject matter, location and species,” he said.

Another problem is that researchers have to seek separate permission to talk to many authorities like the chief wildlife warden, MoEF, National Tiger Conservation Authority, Wildlife Preservation Authority, field directors and the Central government. All this takes over four months. Thus, there is a need for standard guidelines, he said.

Prof R Sukumar, noted elephant expert and Indian Institute of Science faculty, said many students do not undertake research in forest areas because of delayed or denied permission. There is a need for good, controlled research for better conservation, he said.

A lot of research is being done in other science streams such as chemistry, physics and biology, but less in case of wildlife. There is a dearth of veterinarians and young experts on species, for which guided research is essential, Sukumar said.

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