Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Demand for a capable Minister for MoEF

Date: 19.05.2009
Smt.Sonia Gandhi,
President, Indian National Congress,
10, Janpath
New Delhi-110011

The period from 1970-90 was a golden period for Indian forests and wildlife. With the launch of the Project Tiger, our national animal was saved from the brink of extinction through strict legislation and enforcement of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972. The visionary act of the then Honourable Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi ably guided by people who realized the importance of protecting the forests was instrumental in getting strong foundation for conservation of wildlife in our country. Unfortunately, after the demise of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Indian wildlife took a downward trend and few of the successive governments were able to continue her legacy.

Today, we are faced with the bleak scenario of dwindling forests and not a day passes without reading in the press of an animal being poached or wildlife habitat being encroached / making way for grand infrastructure projects like highways, dams, mines etc. Sariska lost all its Tigers few years back. Panna has met the same fate today and Kanha is headed the same way. According to official sources, India has lost eight tigers this year due to poaching and unofficial numbers could be three times higher.

A lot of cheer is on in our country today with the prospect of a stable government at the center, which will be able to carry forward economic reforms without any pressure. Unemployment is expected to come down, industrial production is expected to improve and the Sensex has been on the upward trend from yesterday. The cheer is also for the prospect of a young government which will bring freshness and honesty into governance. While this augurs good for the future of our country, it will be very sad if this freshness, honesty and integrity is not infused into the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

Scientific studies have valued the annual cost of loss of forests worldwide between $2trillion and $5trillion. India stands to benefit largely by utilizing this resource wisely. The revenue that our forests generate for our country in terms of water sources, air, carbon sequestration, medicines, eco –tourism etc. is far greater that what any economic reform can bring in. However to understand and appreciate these benefits, foresight is needed and going by past experiences this foresight has been lacking by governments of the past decade, at the center as well at the state level. Many of these benefits may not be tangible and hence the inability to appreciate it. Conservation of forests and wildlife are similar to the spending on health, education, security which do not have direct benefits but bring intangible benefits for the society.

To save our country from the loss of such high economic valued resources and to protect the wildlife which, though cannot vote like we humans do, but have an equal right to ‘roti’ and ‘makaan’, a person with foresight, steadfastness and broad outlook is needed. Insulating the forests from development activities like infrastructure projects and mining also requires hard conviction and principles to resist the lobbying powers. The legislations in our country are among the best in the world. The weakness is in the implementation of these laws.

In light of this, a strong, committed and young Member of the Parliament can give visionary direction to this ministry which needs a good understanding of scientific, biological and socio-economic aspects combined with wide travelling to remote regions of the country. Hence we request you to allot the very important portfolio of Ministry of Forest and Environment to someone with such dedication and commitment.


Laxmeesha Acharya
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society



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