He is a die-hard conservationist, a member of the erstwhile royal family of Wankaner, a wildlife expert and a former bureaucrat but most of all he was the principal author of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972…writes Shreya Das
So, when M.K. Ranjitsinh says that the “governments now do not have enough political will” to protect our wildlife, it highlights the threat to India’s forests and wildlife.
“In the revision of the 1972 Wildlife Act, no state government was ready to establish a new park or a sanctuary. Being the Forest Secretary for 2.5 years in Madhya Pradesh (1970-73), I established nine new national parks and 14 new sanctuaries. For the existing parks, I doubled their size. A little less than 6,000 sq km of parks and sanctuaries is the only area that is left where nature will survive,” Ranjitsinh told IANS in an interview.
He asserted that even 35 years after of his retirement in 1983, just 200 sq ft has been added to national parks and sanctuaries in two states and three little sanctuaries, that too 20 years ago.
“No political party wants any new national park and sanctuary, as a matter of fact, they want to reduce them,” he said.
In 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered the relocation of some of the lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh within six months to save them from extinction. It has been five years and the order is yet to be implemented.
Asiatic lions are now found only in Gujarat, where their population jumped from 411 in 2010 to 523 in 2015. Crammed for space, a number of prides have ventured out of forests and occupied areas as far as in coastal Gujarat. In many areas, they scavenge for food and share space with feral dogs blamed for spreading Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) to African lions that killed nearly half the population in the mid-1990s.
“During my visit to Saurashtra, I noticed that there was only a 3 per cent increase in five protected areas: Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary and Girnar Sanctuary. The government doesn’t want to give them (animals) space… they simply don’t want to establish a single protected area outside.
“Does conservation of nature, forget wildlife, get you votes? Every other government is interested in votes and the next elections. I am sorry to say it but this is not governance. Is there nothing sacrosanct in this country? If you are not prepared to dig below the Taj Mahal for diamonds or Ajanta-Elora for oil then shouldn’t Kaziranga, Kanha and others be sacrosanct as well?… because that is the last place where our natural heritage will survive.
“If everything is to be used for greed and need of everybody, then the Environment ministry might as well shut shop and disband the national wildlife board,” he opined.