While NDA government is going full throttle to clear projects and ease green clearance norms, it seems wildlife conservation efforts are on backburner as over 100 days have passed but there seems to be no movement in appointing a full time head of its “Project Elephant”.
Created in 1992 as a centrally sponsored scheme, Project Elephant is an important division of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) today and is aimed at protecting Asian elephants, their habitat and corridors, addressing issues of elephant-human conflict and welfare of large number of domesticated elephants.
“However, neglect of this division can be gauged from the fact that the division does not have a full time officer looking after it since May 2013. It is being handled by an officer of the wildlife division of the environment ministry as an additional charge. In nutshell it is a defunct and a nearly non-functional division right now,” sources in MoEF told dna.
A senior officer of the environment ministry alleged that the focus of the government, whether UPA-II or the new NDA government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is not at all on wildlife conservation.
“If any of these governments had any focus or concern for elephants, this division would have got a full time head. We have none since May, last year. The present government also is only focused on easing norms for clearances which is visible from the urgent reconstitution of the National Board for Wildlife as over 200 projects were stuck due to that, but in project elephant no proactive movement has taken place in last 100 days of this government,” the senior officer told dna.
He further said that “whatever movement on files in project elephant is taking place is due to ongoing case in the Supreme Court and that explains everything”.
As per sources, one officer RK Srivastava of Manipur Cadre was chosen to take over as the new head of division but that too has not been finalised. “He was to join as full time head, but neither it has been confirmed nor rejected,” sources added.
As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global estimated population of Asian elephant, an endangered species, is about 41,000 -52,000 and of that something between 26,000-30,000 elephants are in India alone. It basically means that almost over 50 per cent of the remaining wild Asian elephants occur in India.
Few years ago in 2010, the central government had declared elephant as an animal of national heritage to scale uo measures for its protection. As per records, there are around 25,000 elephants in India and of that around 3,500 are in captivity. Till now 26 Elephant Reserves in India right now which extends over about 60,000 square kilometre area and have been formally notified by various state governments.
Elephants in India are facing grave danger due to habitat loss, poaching and increasing human-elephant conflict. There are cases going on in India’s Supreme Court as well regarding train accidents leading to death of jumbos.