Introduction to this blog

NBWLMATTERS is a blog where past and present non-government members of the National Board for Wildlife can share their official letters and notes to government with the public. These documents will provide insights into the functioning of the NBWL, India’s top-level advisory body to government on matters pertaining to wildlife conservation, particularly within Protected Areas. Apart from 32 officials from various departments, 15 non-government members - 5 representing NGOs and 10 individual conservationists /ecologists who represent the views of civil society - are nominated to be on the Board for a period of three years. The full board is supposed to meet at least once a year under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister, something that doesn't always happen. For most members of the NBWL, official as well as non-government, these brief, ritualistic, annual meetings are the extent of their participation in the matters of the NBWL.  However, a Standing Committee, chaired by the Union Minister in charge of Environment and Forests, and comprising a few officials and non-government members, meets every three months to take crucial decisions. The Director of Wildlife Preservation acts as the Member Secretary.
According to the government notification on the Standing Committee, the following are its powers and functions:

Powers of the Standing Committee (as per govt. notification):-
"Subject to the general superintendence, direction and control of the National Board for Wild Life, the Standing Committee may exercise all powers exercisable by the National Board for Wild Life under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 (53 of 1972) or the rules made there under, unless otherwise specified in this notification".

(Comment: The “general superintendence, direction and control” exercised by the NBWL is merely limited to getting the decisions of the Standing Committee ratified by the Chairperson (Prime Minister). Presently, the Standing Committee operates independently of the NBWL by delegating to itself all powers without securing the approval of the full NBWL as mandated under the law).  

Duties and Functions of the Standing Committee (as per govt. notification):-

The Standing Committee shall perform the following duties, namely:-

       i)  To promote the conservation and development of wild Life and forests by such measures as it thinks fit.

      ii)  To advise the Central Government and the State Governments on the ways and means of promoting wild life conservation and effectively controlling poaching and illegal trade of wild life and its products;

      iii) To make recommendations on setting up of and management of National Parks, Sanctuaries and other Protected Areas and on matters relating to restriction of activities in those areas;

      iv) To carry out or cause to be carried out impact assessment of various projects and activities on wild life or its habitat.

      v) To review from time to time, the progress in the field of wild Life conservation in the country and suggest measures for improvement thereto; and

      vi) To prepare and publish a status report on wild life in the country once in two years.
(Comment: in actual fact, a majority of the projects that come before the Standing Committee are potentially harmful to wildlife). 

About Agenda Items for Standing Committee meetings, the government notification clearly states as follows:

"The Member-Secretary shall prepare agenda items for the meeting, obtain approval of the Chairman and circulate it to all members at least fifteen days prior to the date of such meeting".

(Comment:  the reality is, Agenda Items are invariably sent at the last minute, with very few supporting documents or maps, even though the approved proforma specifies that these documents must be submitted). 

During each meeting of the Standing Committee, 30 - 50 proposals are sought to be pushed through within 2-3 hours. The decisions are not put to vote and the present methods of functioning ensure that any objections raised by non-government members on projects have minimal impact on approvals. A site inspection or an impact assessment is conducted only for a very small percentage of projects. Non-government members of the previous and present NBWLs have written several letters to the Chairman, Vice Chairman and Member Secretary, NBWL, as well as to the Secretary Environment and Forests, in this regard. Some of the most important items of correspondence are now being shared through this blog in the public interest. The correspondence pertains to the National Board for Wildlife 2007 - 2010 and to the present NBWL.

Here is an analysis of the decisions of 3 Standing Committee meetings in 2007 and 2008: