Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday came down heavily on the Maharashtra government for doing “lip service” and not adopting a scientific and objective approach towards identifying and notifying critical wildlife habitats in the state. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had, in January 2017, set up guidelines on the demarcation of critical wildlife habitats under the Wildlife Act, 2006. Following this, the state government last year set up committees to identify and notify such habitats so that these could be kept free from violations.
A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre was hearing a public interest litigation by NGO Vanashakti on the protection and conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat following the failure of the authorities in demarcating critical wildlife habitats in forest areas. The petition claimed no steps had been taken in the matter since the committees were set up. “Why have you (government) done this lip service (just setting up of committees)? We want to know what scientific and objective criteria is considered before identifying and notifying a particular area as critical wildlife habitat,” the court said. The bench noted the government was only interested in the funds received from the UN.
“The main problem is they get UN funding. If they say the number of tigers or any other endangered animals has risen, then they will get more funds,” the court said. The bench further said the true guardians of such forest areas were the tribals living in the area.
“All these rich people want to enjoy the wildlife and scenery but once there they are more bothered about whether their mobile phones have networks. What is the government doing to protect the wildlife?” Chief Justice Nandrajog asked. The court said the government could not simply issue a public notice notifying a particular area as a critical wildlife habitat. The bench posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.