- There is no resolution of MoEF or National Wildlife Board to recommend Tiger Reserve in Goa, he says
The major question before the Goa government today is whether or not to declare Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as a Tiger reserve as there is strong opposition from within govt as well as the people from Sattari & other forested areas. However, the High Court deadline of three months to notify Tiger Reserve is nearing and govt now intends to approach HC to extend the deadline. To know more about this Goemkarponn Editor Suraj Nandrekar speaks to Advocate General Devidas Pangam
Suraj Nandrekar: What are Goa’s plans? Are we going to declare a Tiger Reserve or go for extension of deadline?
Devidas Pangam: As of now we have challenged the order of High Court, the Court had said that by October 24 we have have to issue a notification declaring this. Presently, we are before the Supreme Court and everything depends on the outcome of the SC
matter. In the meanwhile we do not have a stay from SC so we are planning to go to the High Court again and ask for some time saying that we are before the Supreme Court and we will wait for the outcome. Subsequently, whatever precautions are required to be taken in terms of HC, we are proceeding to taken all the precautions.
In the HC judgement there were several directions
including directions to find out whether there are any encroachments in the wildlife century. We are going to do that also, but as of now my instructions are that there are no such encroachments and whatever precautions are required to be taken as per the Wildlife Protection Act and Wildlife Sancturies are concerned the government is taking all the precautions.
SN: But the time is ticking as the deadline of October 24 is so close?
Devidas Pangam: See I have advised the government that we
should file such an application and govt will have to accept the advise and upon that the application will be filed immediately that is not an issue.
Firstly, the delay has not happened as there was three months time was there and in the meanwhile government decided to go to the SC and when we did that we had
to wait for order and not move HC. Therefore, the moment SC said they are issuing notice and no stay was granted, that is the time the call had to be taken and the call has been taken.
SN: Why is the Goa govt opposing Tiger Reserve?
Devidas Pangam: Basically what happens is as far as legal aspect is concerned. Firstly to declare Tiger Reserve, a recommendation has to come from NTCA and that recommendation has not come. There are one or two letters written by one of its members which is not a recommendation by authority as this is a statutory authority, headed by Minister for Environment & Forest, and other members. As we know there is no resolution passed by this authority directing the State government to notify. The letter which is issued in 2016 and again in 2022 it only says you send a proposal and that cannot be considered as recommendation, which is something else. We have found out there are three fold procedures, first the proposal has to go thereafter they will consider it and it will come back to us and again we will send it to them and then they will consider. So there is three-tier procedure to be followed. According to us there is no recommendation and it is a matter of fact that there is no recommendation.
SN: Is there no recommendation from NTCA after 2020 Tiger killings in its report?
Devidas Pangam: No, those are reports and findings done after every Tiger deaths but as a matter of fact there is no recommendation binding on State.
SN: What about the letter Congress leader Jairam Ramesh talks about?
Devidas Pangam: This was a letter sent by him when he was the Environment Minister. He is not the authority. The authority is created under Wildlife Protection Act and consists of several members and that authority has to sit and resolve and issue a direction under the Section 38 V of Wildlife Protection Act. Merely some minister writes a letter this is not a requirement of Wildlife Protection Act.
SN: People want to know what are the restrictions for a Tiger Reserve?
Devidas Pangam: The restrictions are well-provided under Wildlife Protection Act, if you ask me it is a Wildlife Santuary all restrictions are there in place. Only what will happen is there will be more restrictions in the sense that lot of funds will come from Centre, there will be monitoring, there will be a core area that will be prescribed, there will be anti-poaching camps that would be set up. So there is going to be strict vigilance. All that procedure of settlements of rights of the people, if it becomes necessary to shift some people from core area, that will also will have to be done.
SN: Are this restrictions going to hurt anyone?
Devidas Pangam: Yes, this will hurt people those in core area. The government’s contention in HC was also same that we need to take care of the people. Even the Wildlife Sanctuaries the notifications have been issued but the rights of the people have not been settled and that was the government stand. We want to settle the rights first.
SN: Will Goa-Belagavi road also be closed at time as part of restrictions?
Devidas Pangam: See ultimately it so happens these areas are protected under Wildlife Protection Act. Now whatever activities are there to be carried out need to be done with permissions from State Wildlife Board and Centreal Wildlife Board. So there is a set procedure. That is the case in core areas the movement of will require permit. But Belgavi-Goa road is on the periphery and not core areas and will not be restricted. But the apprehensions of the people are bound to be there and have to be taken care of.
SN: Activists and opposition are claiming it is opposed because Goa Cabinet ministers have a vested interest. Your view.
Devidas Pangam: This is a political question and the answer to it would be also political and the post I hold I cannot make a statement on this. We have an issue here on application of law. According to us the requirement of Section 38 V of Wildlife Protection Act has not been taken care of as there are no recommendations and hence it cannot happen. See there are three things, wish of the person, will of the person and the legal position these are different situations all together. This is the exact question we have raised before the Supreme Court and it has issued notice to Central Govt and the authority.
SN: Has the Goa Govt done any study on how many houses exist in Mhadei Wildlife Santuary?
Devidas Pangam: See there is some study conducted but our case before High Court is that we have to study this further and take care of people and have to come out with a plan to solve problem and give them solace and hence we said that at this stage we are not inclined to notify the Tiger Reserve.
SN: Will only Mhadei WS be included in Tiger Reserve or even others like Bhagwan Mahaveer & Netravali WS will be included?
Devidas Pangam: The letters which have been written speak about all the Wildlife Sanctuaries. All the four or five wildlife sanctuaries is the areas which they propose for Tiger Reserve.
SN: If there is no recommendation, why did the HC give such an order?
Devidas Pangam: According to me that is where the High Court has gone wrong. That is the case we are placing before the Supreme Court. The High Court says the letter from member is enough, which we do not agree.
SN: It is being said that if Goa declares Tiger Reserve, Mhadei water diversion by Karnataka could also be prevented?
Devidas Pangam: See this is all about if’s & but’s. If you ask me even if it is wildlife sanctuary there is a protection. Because section 29 of Wildlife protection act is applicable to both wildlife sanctuary and tiger reserve It does not differentiate. Protections are already there even in absence of Tiger reserve.
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