Friday, 30 September 2011

Enable citizens report Wildlife crimes anonymously to save wildlife and forests of Uttarakhand

Written by Anil Singh

Not a single day passes when some local newspaper reports trafficking of wild animal parts from Uttarakhand forests. The traffickers who most of the times are Uttarakhand domiciles (common folks living in the state), act as small intermediaries in the big trade of illegal wild life and products trafficking.

[NOTE: Wild Life products range from Leopard, Tiger Hides, bones, nails to Bile of Bear.]

The unfortunate thing is, call it lack of awareness among locals, population pressure on wildlife resources, or lack of adequate employment opportunities; wild life in Uttarakhand is depleting much quickly than we can imagine.

Although wild life personnel and police are doing their bit to control this trafficking; their efforts are often not smart enough to tackle the problem of wildlife trafficking, of which locals are a party. And this lack of smartness is one particular aspect of wildlife conservation in Uttarakhand, which is failing every effort of the conservationists and protectors.

Certainly we can hints lessons from USA.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (Louisiana is a state in USA. An American of Indian origin Bobby Jindal, 40, made history by becoming the first person of Indian origin to become a state Governor, the state of Louisiana. He’s currently Governor of Louisiana) has recently acquired both an SMS address number and an iPhone app for itself; for the purpose of getting anonymous tips from citizens about outdoor-related violations to its enforcement agents.
The tip411 program is part of Operation Game Thief, which offers cash rewards for information leading to arrests or convictions.

Colonel Winton Vidrine, head of the enforcement division, says the new program will get younger people to report violations.

It’ll be wrong to say that, people in Uttarakhand, especially youth will not make use of such a service, if the Uttarakhand Wildlife department or the Uttarakhand police provide them one. But the initiative will only be taken by the Government.

Such a mechanism, using which citizens can inform any illegal activity anonymously, can not only help save wildlife; but make citizens more aware of their citizen duties as well.

That apart, Government at the same time should also implement some people friendly policies which lessen the population pressure on forests for wood, fodder etc. In the absence of such policies, it’ll be hard to stop people from venturing into forests. One such policy can be to provide LPG at a subsidized rate to villagers dependent on forests or to far flung villages close to forests. This is important, as most of the times, people in such villages have to shell out much more than the cylinder MRP, when they pay additional porting charges to bring the cylinder home. A reason, strong enough to make them venture into forest for fuel.

If the state Government looks at hill’s state’s forests and wildlife from preservation point of view , I’m sure it can think of many such policies (after all leaders and Government executive are one of the most bright people in any society).

If the Uttarakhand Government stops seeing the state as one rich in forest resources; and instead focus on preserving these same forests to their pristine state, then it will not only succeed in making pro wildlife and pro people policies; but also generate the required money and employment, via sectors like Tourism, Education and Medical.

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