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MoEF&CC’s U-turn to Merge Four Environmental Bodies


In June, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) issued a notification reversing its earlier decision to merge four important bodies – National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Forest Survey of India (FSI), Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), and Central Zoo Authority (CZA).


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Failed Merger Proposal of Environmental Bodies during Covid-19 Pandemic
  2. National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
  3. Forest Survey of India (FSI)
  4. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB)
  5. Central Zoo Authority (CZA)

Failed Merger Proposal of Environmental Bodies during Covid-19 Pandemic:

  • During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Union government proposed merging the NTCA, CZA, WCCB, and FSI into a single organization, sparking criticism from activists who feared weakened environmental oversight.

Critics’ Concerns:

  • Critics argued that the merger would strip key environmental organizations of their effectiveness.
  • The current structure allows the NTCA to oppose forest clearances that impact Tiger Reserves, but the proposed merger might have hindered this by placing the NTCA under a different authority.

Government’s Rationale:

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) claimed that the proposal aimed to consolidate the authorities into 19 regional offices for better coordination.
  • MoEF&CC insisted that it wasn’t a merger but a move to centralize functions under one roof.

Recent Development:

  • However, in June 2023, the MoEF&CC abandoned the merger plan, possibly due to technical and administrative challenges associated with integrating the institutions.

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA):

  • Established under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 as a statutory body.
  • Formed in 2005 based on recommendations of the Tiger Task Force.
  • Provide legal authority to Project Tiger for enforceable compliance.
  • Foster accountability in Tiger Reserve management between Centre and State.
  • Address the livelihood interests of local communities around Tiger Reserves.
  • Approval of state government’s tiger conservation plans.
  • Prevent diversion of tiger reserves and connecting areas for ecologically unsustainable purposes.
  • Support and facilitate state tiger reserve management for biodiversity conservation.
Tiger Census:
  • Conducted across India every four years by NTCA.
  • Chairman: Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Forest Survey of India (FSI):

  • Established in 1981 following the recommendation of the National Commission on Agriculture (NCA).
  • Primary role is to assess and monitor the forest cover in the country.
  • Headquarters: Located in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
  • Conducts assessment of forest cover every 2 years using remote sensing satellite data.
  • Publishes the findings in a biennial report known as ‘State of Forest Report’ (SFR).
  • Provides training to forest personnel from various states in India.

Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB):

  • Established in 2007 as a statutory body under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Primarily focuses on combating organized wildlife crime activities.
  • Headquarters: Located in New Delhi.
  • Collects and consolidates intelligence related to organized wildlife crimes and shares it with state and other enforcement agencies for prompt action and apprehension of criminals.
  • Maintains a centralized wildlife crime data bank.
  • Coordinates actions among various agencies to enforce the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act.
  • Assists foreign authorities and international organizations in coordinating efforts for wildlife crime control.
  • Conducts capacity-building programs for enforcement agencies to enhance their expertise in investigating wildlife crimes.
  • Aids state governments to ensure successful prosecutions related to wildlife crimes.
Customs Assistance:
  • Assists and provides advice to Customs authorities in inspecting consignments of flora and fauna, ensuring compliance with Wildlife Protection Act, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and EXIM Policy.

Central Zoo Authority (CZA):

  • A statutory body established in 1992 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Aims to contribute to the conservation of India’s rich biodiversity, especially fauna, as per the National Zoo Policy of 1998.
  • Headquarters: Based in New Delhi.
Key Functions:
  • Ensures that every zoo in the country follows its guidelines by obtaining recognition from the Authority.
  • Primarily acts as a facilitator rather than a regulator, offering technical and financial assistance to zoos that have the potential to meet desired animal management standards.
  • Establishes rules and guidelines for the transfer of animals between zoos nationally and internationally.
  • Coordinates and implements programs for capacity building of zoo personnel, planned breeding initiatives, and ex-situ research.
  • Complements and strengthens the national conservation effort, focusing on preserving the diverse biodiversity of the country, particularly its fauna.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024