Friday, April 27, 2007

Opinion: Leopards, other wildlife in Kashmir


The biotic pressures resulted due to overexploitation of heaviest industrial units in and around the sensitive Protected Areas connecting and interlinking other areas with the wildlife sanctuaries and National Park also worked well in disturbance of food chain as well as in disturbance of the human environment. Thus the natural habitat of the predator leopards and the Hangul (Kashmir stag) reached to its destruction gradually.

There was nobody to come to rescue in such a scenario, because the technically qualified I.F.S Officers were now relieved and replaced by the junior local officers. The government was misled with reference to the population figures of Hanguls by fabricated census and survey reports systematically, which were finally turned down by a competent technical team of experts of Indian Wildlife Institute but the influence worked well, as per routine.

The overexploitation and heavy biotic pressures caused by timber smugglers resulted in destruction of wild habitat of Leopards. The predator leopards were so compelled to come out of the wilderness shelterbelts of their natural habitat for their survival. This opened a floodgate of ruthless killing of unfortunate leopards in Uri, Handwara, Kupwara, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Kangan, Gurez, Karnah areas under the unjustified label of man-eaters, without being identified as such.

The wildlife managers as well as the smugglers of leopard skins both created the public sense that each leopard found out of forests is necessarily a man- eater-leopard. The department of wildlife remained confined to collection of dead bodies of leopards but where ever available. Most of the skins of leopards reached into the hands of smuggler mafia of illegal trade in leopard skins etc.

None of the aforesaid killings of the normal leopards was ever enquired or investigated into at all. The aforesaid ruthless killing of leopards and smuggling of leopard skins etc. goes against the very spirits of the notable “convention on trade in endangered species internationally known as C.I.T.E.S where under India has shown its commitment to “integrated wildlife management programs and regulating traffic in wildlife”.

The projection of the departmental functioning remained confined to celebration of wildlife weeks that too in a systematic procedure of concealment of the facts on the ground with reference to wildlife. The appointments and promotions even beyond the sanctioned staff strength received the main thrust that too avoiding conducting of any D.P.C meeting and bye passing the State Subordinate Services Recruitment Board. Till this date there is only one man-eater-leopard case on records in Kashmir valley.

The leopard responsible for killing of some ten children in Bandipora areas was formally identified and killed under proper competent orders. One normal leopard labeled as man-eater was illegally killed in Leherwalpora of North Kashmir.

The first ever leopard killing booked under the provisions of wildlife law was reported from Arin and second such leopard killing was formally reported in Bunkote areas of Bandipura..

The killing of normal leopard is an easy routine in Kashmir valley, when one reminds the killing of a normal leopard in Lalbazar, Srinagar that too in broad day light.
Praise worthy are the dedicated and human hearted efforts of print and the electronic media of the country whereunder the wildlife crime has been highlighted and projected well creating the desired public awareness.

This is further noteworthy that the Supreme Court has held, in a case, that any disturbance of basic environment namely, air, water and soil, which are necessary for “life” would be hazardous to “life” within the meaning of Art 21 of the constitution of India. If disturbing the environment violates these rights, the Court has the power award damages not only for restoration of the ecological balance, but also for the victims who have suffered due to that disturbance.

Another tip of the iceberg is that the leopards as and when seen outside forests anywhere are in first instance unjustifiably labeled as human killers even by the concerned wildlife managers of the area whereunder the people get a nod for killing such unfortunate leopards.

The public opinion so created with reference to the presence of such leopards in or around the public localities is also quite strange. Some learned people locally are even of the baseless opinion that such leopards are not native but are intruder predators of the neighboring countries. This is the height of the public awareness in this modern era for which the department is under another legal obligation as the public awareness itself is part of the management of wildlife.

None of such unfortunate leopards so found outside the forests was confirmed as human killer. Tranquilization has never been preferred in dealing with such leopards. Similarly the translocation of such leopards has never been seen at all. The provisions of tranquilizations and translocation as provided under section 10 of JKWLP (A), (Act) 2002 are never treated necessary in dealing with such matters.

The exhaustively referred above scenario, so continuing uninterruptedly in the form of systematic corruption, mismanagement, criminal negligence, flourishing encroachment of wet lands, overexploitation caused by operation of stone quarries, functioning of heavy cement plants, declining of stag (Hangul) population, ruthless killing of leopards, destruction of food chain, timber smuggling, activities, biotic pressures on wild habitat and exploitation of specified plants all together, unambiguously makes out prima facie grounds for filling of a public interest litigation in the interest of restoration of the imbalanced ecological system. Which is the fundamental duty of every citizen of the nation.

(Author is an Eco-freelancer) Date=28_4_2007&ItemID=10&cat=12

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