Wildlife crimes on the rise, fund allocation on decline

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Even when poaching and other threats to wildlife remain rampant, the Centre has eaten into the funds released under three of its flagship schemes for wildlife conservation, an analysis from the State of India’s Environment 2022 has said.

On the one hand, as many as 2,639 leopards and 579 tigers were killed in last 15 years; on the other, the funding for three of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) schemes for wildlife conservation has shown decline ranging between 16-47 per cent, the ‘State of India’s Environment 2022’ released by the Centre for Science & Environment (CSE) on March 1 has found out.

Funding for development of wildlife habitat, being implemented in 34 states and UTs, went down from Rs 165 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 124 crore in 2019-20 to Rs 87 crore in 2020-21. Similarly, funding for Project Tiger — implemented in 19 states with tiger ranges — went down from Rs 323.2 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 281.8 crore in 2019-20 to Rs 194.5 crore in 2020-21. Even the Project Elephant — being implemented in 22 states — saw similar slashing of funds from Rs 29.1 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 28 crore in 2019-2020 to Rs 24 crore in 2020-21.

The ‘State of India’s Environment 2022’ report also stated that there has been a 78 per cent increase in the number of environmental crimes in the country between 2019 and 2020. At the same time, the courts are disposing of cases at a rate much lower than that of new cases recorded, leading to pile ups and delays.

Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh accounted for 90 per cent of the environmental crimes.

Human wildlife conflict

Another cause of worry for the wildlife lovers is the increasing instances of human-elephant conflicts that have continued to remain high year after year. As per data from the MoEF&CC from 2014-15 till 2020-2021 (till August 9, 2021), 696 elephants were killed in those seven years.

Although the number of human deaths is far more than elephants, the cause of worry about elephants is more for obvious reasons that there are roughly 3,000 elephants left in the wild in India.

There are 30 elephant reserves across India encompassing 55,000 sq kms area. But 80 per cent of the elephants are outside the protected areas. Elephants, the national heritage animal, are large mammals and need long areas, they need to cross from one habitat to another. “With most of the elephants outside the elephant reserves, they come in contact with human beings and that gives rise to the human-elephant conflict cases,” said an official from the Ministry.

According to the last count in 2017, there were 29,964 elephants in India. The human-elephant conflict had 83 elephant deaths while 418 deaths in 2014-15; followed by 113 elephants deaths and 469 human deaths in 2015-16; 94 elephant deaths with 516 human casualties in 2016-17 and 105 elephants were killed while 516 humans lost their life in 2017-18.

Similarly, in 2018-19, as many as 115 elephants died while it was 457 humans who paid for within the humans in 2019-2020, it was merely 99 elephant deaths as against 585 humans. And last was 87 elephant deaths followed by 359 human deaths.

Budget 2022-23 shows higher allocation

The budget announcements this year, however, painted a little different picture. The MoEF&CC received a total of Rs 3,030.00 crore in the budget 2022-23 compared to Rs 2,869.9 crore in 2021-22 and much higher than Rs 2,630.2 crore in 2013-14.

The Ministry received Rs 300 crore for 2022-23, increased from Rs 220 crore in 2021-22 for tiger conservation. The allocation is higher from Rs 195 crore in 2020-21, which, in turn was higher from Rs 175 crore in 2014-15.

(Nivedita Khandekar can be reached at nivedita.k@ians.in)

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