Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 21:
Expressing concern over the casual and insouciant manner in which the honorary wildlife wardens (HWLW) are being appointed in the state, secretary of the Wildlife Society of Odisha Dr Biswajit Mohanty has urged the Forest department to stick to the Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972 which provides the basic criteria for the appointment of persons from the general public as HWLWs who assist the government in protecting wildlife and collection of inputs and information to control poaching and trade.
In a letter addressed to the Principal Secretary, Forest and Environment department, Dr Mohanty has said it is appalling to find that the HWLWs in Odisha have failed to discharge their duties , barring a handful of persons.
“Many of them are retired government employees who lack sound health as well as resources to undertake tours on their own. One HWLW is a consultant to mining companies and industries and gets forest clearance for them,” the letter said, adding ” the forest department does not hold consultation meetings with them and rarely seeks their help and co operation to enforce wildlife laws and protect wildlife.”
“Even when critical wildlife habitats like Tiger Reserves (Satkosia TR) are sought to be denotified by government due to pressure from industrial lobby, the HWLW do not protest.” he rued.
The HWLW are expected to play a key role in gathering information about wildlife crimes and assist the department in carrying out raids and seizures. The Act also empowers them to carry out raids and seizures of wildlife products.
Pointing out that the guidelines contained in the Wildlife Act provide for a criteria for selection as well as the process to be followed for the appointment, Dr Mohanty has demanded that the department initiate a thorough review and assessment of the work of the HWLW before seeking to renew their assignment and make new appointments solely on the basis of the concerned guideline.