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Bid to make NTCA a non-functional entity flayed
Ajit Patowary

 GUWAHATI, May 15 - Leading environment activist Rohit Choudhury has complained that a small but powerful coterie of officials in the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), in collusion with vested interest circles, is out to make the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory body, which is responsible for overseeing the agenda for tiger conservation in the country, non-functional. These lobbies are planning to merge the Regional Offices of the NTCA, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and Forest Survey of India (FSI) in the name of ‘better planning and coordination’.

 The exercise undertaken at the Directorate General of Forest (DGF) level, is in fact aimed at scuttling the autonomy and independence of the NTCA and at reducing it into a non-functional entity, Choudhury alleged. If the argument of this lobby that the merger of the above bodies and placing them under a single regional office headed by the Deputy Director General, Forest (DDGF) would result in better planning and coordination, the NTCA would not have been created by the Government of India in the first place, argued Choudhury in his letter to the Minister, MoEFCC recently.

He also reminded the Union Minister that the Parliament of India felt the need of the specialised agencies to conserve biodiversity and for fostering sustainable development. Accordingly, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was amended in 2006 and the statutory bodies like the NTCA, Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and WCCB were created with well-defined mandates, powers and authority.

The present reorganisation move initiated by certain vested interest circles goes against the judgment and will of the Parliament, he said.

He said further that today, India is considered a global leader in the field of tiger conservation mainly because of the pioneering leadership of the NTCA. Since its creation in 2006, the NTCA made the tiger-related biodiversity crisis turnaround by reintroducing the species in Sariska and Panna Tiger Reserves, from where this majestic species had locally gone into extinct. The NTCA took the overall tiger conservation agenda to a new height.

The centrally-sponsored ‘Project Tiger’ scheme implemented by the NTCA, is one of the most successful conservation schemes of the country. Despite the shoestring budget, this scheme has been largely successful in doubling the tiger population of the country from 1411 in 2006 to 2967 in 2018. This can be attributed to the science-based management inputs, monitoring, voluntary village relocation, ecotourism initiatives designed and implemented by the NTCA in the tiger landscapes, said Choudhury.

The reason behind the above move to reduce the NTCA into a non-functional entity, Choudhury said, is to make the NTCA officers ineffective in matters of issuing the assessment reports on matters related to conversion of the Tiger Reserve lands or tiger corridors for non-forestry activities. The NTCA officers would lose their power to independently assess such matters if they are placed under the control of the Deputy Director Generals of Forest, Inspector Generals of Forest or Deputy Inspector Generals of Forest, Choudhury said.

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