Delay in posting officer may hit wildlife protection (State of Karnataka, India)


Bosky Khanna, Deccan Herald

Date Published

See link for photo. 

Karnataka houses the largest population of tigers and elephants in India, but sadly it does not have a chief wildlife warden (CWW).

CWW is a key post in ensuring protection of wildlife and takes decisions on critical issues like giving shoot-at-sight orders on poachers, translocating animals for rehabilitation, capturing or even killing animals. He has quasi-court powers to take decisions on the spot to mitigate man-animal conflict. He is also the link between the state and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). 

In the past, the post was held by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), who is the head of the wildlife division in the forest department. But the previous PCCF P Anur Reddy who retired early this month did not hold the post. His successor Punati Sridhar too has not been given the CWW post.

The government order issued on June 29, 2017 – appointing Sridhar as PCCF (wildlife) – has no mention of the CWW post.

A senior forest department official conceded there was pressure from the chief minister’s office (CMO) to appoint a junior officer as CWW by downgrading the post. 

When contacted, Forest Minister Ramanath Rai refused to comment on the pressure from the CMO. He asserted he would not allow anyone to downgrade the post as long as he is the minister. However, it is speculated that Rai will get the Home department in the next Cabinet reshuffle likely this month-end. 

Meanwhile, a proposal to appoint Sridhar as the CWW has been forwarded to Rai. Additional Chief Secretary (Forests) P Ravi Kumar said a new file has been created to appoint Sridhar as the CWW. 

“Many additional PCCFs are keen to be the next CWW and reduce PCCF (wildlife) to a ceremonial post. This clash of power is not good for wildlife, which should now focus on chalking plans to mitigate man-animal conflicts,” said Pandira Medappa Muthanna from the Wildlife Conservation Society.

*According to Ministry of Environment and Forests and Wildlife Protection Act, CWW is a statutory authority and is considered the supreme power.

*CWW has the authority to take decisions pertaining to wildlife. The post of CWW is given to the head of the wildlife division and he is also the secretary of State Board of Wildlife.

*It has the power to issue orders to capture, translocate or even kill an animal. He has quasi-court powers to take decisions on the spot to mitigate man-animal conflict.

*CWW is also the main link of communication between the MoEF, Project Elephant and Project Tiger.

*He/she manages 17% of the forest area of the state designated as protected area comprising national parks and sanctuaries.