Amity Law School, Noida
Habitat destruction is a grave problem for India’s endangered species. The country has a rich wildlife heritage, including tigers, elephants, rhinos, and others, but the loss of natural habitats is a significant threat to their survival. Deforestation, mining, urbanization, and agriculture are some of the primary drivers of habitat destruction in India. As a result, the Indian tiger, a symbol of national pride, is severely threatened, with the loss of forest cover and fragmented habitats leading to a decline in their population.
The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is a crucial legal instrument that seeks to protect endangered species and their habitats by regulating hunting, poaching, and illegal trade in wildlife and their products. The act also mandates the establishment of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and protected areas for conservation purposes. However, the enforcement of the act is a challenge, and habitat destruction continues to pose a severe threat to endangered species in India. Effective implementation and enforcement of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 are necessary to safeguard endangered species and their habitats. It is crucial to adopt sustainable policies and practices that balance conservation and development to mitigate the impact of habitat destruction on India’s endangered species.
Biodiversity plays a critical role in supporting ecosystem services such as carbonsequestration, nutrient cycling, soil formation, and water regulation. It also provides a rangeof goods and services that are essential for human well-being, including food, medicines, andrawmaterials forindustry.
However, the loss of biodiversity due to habitat destruction has significant implications for ecological systems and human well-being. Habitat destruction can lead to a decline in species populations and a loss of genetic diversity, which can reduce the ability of species to adapt to changing environmental conditions. This, in turn, can lead to a decline in ecosystem services, which can have cascading effects on human well-being.
Therefore, it is essential to recognize the importance of biodiversity and the need to protect endangered species in India.
As the stat shows, in 2021, the total forest and tree cover in India is 80.9 million hectares, which is 24.62% of the geographical area of the country.
However, the rudimentary causes that result to habitat destruction can be:
- The loss of forest cover that amounts to deforestation.
- Mining, which leads to the destruction of ecosystem which have a detrimental effect on environment including soil erosion, water pollution and air pollution.
- Urbanisation, which involves conversion of natural habitats into urban areas which leads to increased human-wildlife
- The expansion of agricultural land often leads to the clearing of natural habitats, particularly forests, to make way for farms. This process can lead to a decline in biodiversity and the loss of habitats for many endangered species.
1 The nature education, Knowledge project, Pg. 1, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Is It the Same Below Ground? | Learn Science at Scitable
2 Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Pg.1 Press Information Bureau
India is home to a large number of endangered species, including tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, and several species of primates. Many of these species are threatened with extinction due to habitat destruction and other human activities. For example, the Indian tiger population has declined by 95% over the past century, primarily due to habitat loss and poaching.
Project tiger: India’s ambitious tiger conservation project launched on April 1, 1973, has increased the tiger population in the country. However, despite the collaborative efforts of the government and people, tiger poaching, habitat fragmentation, and degradation still pose significant threats to the big cats. The Additional Director General of Forests, S P Yadav, stresses the need for continued vigilance and action to protect tigers and their habitat.3
Another impact of habitat destruction is the loss of genetic diversity within species which can reduce their ability to adapt to the changing environment. Scientists have compared genetic data from modern and historical tigers to study changes in genetic diversity due to human activities over the past century. Researchers identified a very high number of DNA variants in the tigers shot during the British Raj — 93 per cent of which were not present in the Indian tigers of today. Habitat loss and hunting led to a decline in tiger population and genetic diversity in India during British rule, highlighting the need for proper management to prevent inbreeding and ensure adaptation to climate change.4
Tigers in India are being forced to move to high mountains due to habitat destruction and the clearing of forests for farming.
Despite finding new areas to live in, tigers are still endangered and less adaptable than leopards in their new mountainous environment.
Tigers can sense the impact of human activity on the biodiversity of an area and can move away from it, but they are not as adaptable as leopards to living in the mountains.
India’s dwindling tiger and lion population has caused national concern, leading authorities to take measures to save the cats.
The main threats to animals across India, from the Himalayas to Indian Ocean islands, are increasing human interference such as development, encroachment, habitat destruction, and poaching.
3- PM Modi to commemorate 50 years of Project Tiger in Mysuru today. Know full schedule, mint,
4- Indian tigers face threat due to lack of genetic diversity, bl,
India is home to half of the world’s surviving tigers, but their population has dwindled from 40,000 to 1,300-1,500 in a century due to various factors. 5
MEASURES TO MITIGATE THE IMPACT
First is Habitat destruction which is one of the most effective ways to mitigate habitat destruction by conserving the remaining habitats of endangered species. This can be done by creating protected areas, wildlife sanctuaries, and national parks.
Second is restoration of degraded habitats, whereby efforts can be made to restore degraded habitats to their original state by planting native plants, controlling invasive species, and reducing soil erosion.
Third is Sustainable development whereby development of projects should be carried out in a sustainable manner to minimize the impact on the habitats of endangered species. This can be achieved through the use of sustainable practices such as eco-tourism and sustainable agriculture.
Fourth is public awareness and education which leads to raising the public awareness about the importance of endangered species and their habitats can help to reduce habitat destruction. Education campaigns can also help to increase the knowledge and understanding of the public on how to conserve habitats.
Fifth is Law enforcement which enforces laws that protect endangered species and their habitats is important in mitigating the impact of habitat destruction. This can be done by implementing regulations and penalties for those who violate conservation laws.6
6- Habitat loss, National wildlife federation, Pg.1 National Wildlife Federationhttps://www.nwf.org › Wildlife-GuideHabitat Loss | National Wildlife Federation
STATUTORY RULES IMPLEMENTED FOR CONSERVATION AND STEPS FOR BETTERMENT
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) assumes a paramount role as a statutory entity operating under the purview of the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change in India. Its cardinal objective lies in fortifying and augmenting the endeavors dedicated to the preservation of tigers throughout the nation. In direct response to the esteemed recommendations posited by the tiger task force, the NTCA was inaugurated in 2005 and subsequently endowed with statutory authority pursuant to Section 38L of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006. This exalted stature accentuates the indispensable position occupied by the NTCA, underscoring its pivotal role in orchestrating and spearheading diverse initiatives aimed at safeguarding the precious tiger populace in India.7
Furthermore, addressing the gaps in the legal system and following are the primary issues:
First and the major one is weak enforcement which poses one of the biggest challenges in the legal system is weak enforcement. Despite the existence of laws, poaching, illegal trade, and habitat destruction continue to be major threats to tiger populations. This is due to a lack of political will, inadequate resources, and corruption within law enforcement agencies.
Second is penalties which are imposed by the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, for wildlife crimes, including poaching and illegal trade, appear to be inadequate. Poachers and traffickers are often able to escape with minimal punishment due to loopholes in the law or lax enforcement.
Third is the lack of community involvement which was the consequence of the efforts made to involve local communities in tiger conservation, as the legal system does not provide adequate support for community-based conservation initiatives which can lead to conflicts between communities and forest authorities, and ought to hinder conservation efforts.
Fourth brings us to fragmented approaches whereby the legal system for tiger conservation is fragmented, with different laws and regulations at the central and state levels. This leads to confusion and inconsistency in enforcement, and can hinder effective conservation efforts.
Fifth and the closing gap in the legal system for the tiger conservation is Inadequate habitat protection wherein the legal system for tiger conservation often focuses on protecting individual tigers, but does not provide adequate protection for their habitats. This leads to habitat destruction due to development activities, such as mining and infrastructure projects.
7 ) Conservation of Tiger under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972,
Overall, the legal system for tiger conservation has weaknesses that need to be strengthened through better enforcement, stronger penalties, community involvement, an integrated approach, and protection for tiger habitats.
SOME RELEVANT CASE LAWS
The Wildlife Trust of India vs. Union of India (2013)
“Conservation of wild life, including the Asiatic Lion, cannot be done in isolation. It has to be done with participation of the local communities who live around the protected areas”
The decision to relocate the Asiatic lions should be based on scientific principles and should prioritize the conservation of the species. The court emphasized the need for proper management of protected areas and the involvement of local communities in conservation efforts.
Furthermore, the court highlighted the duty of the State Government and the Central Government to take all necessary measures for the protection of wildlife, including the Asiatic lions. This duty is derived from the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which provides for the protection of wildlife in India. The court recognized the importance of this legislation in ensuring the protection of wildlife and emphasized the need for effective implementation of the law. The Wildlife Trust of India vs. Union of India (2013) case underscores the importance of involving local communities in conservation efforts, prioritizing scientific principles in decision-making, and effective implementation of wildlife protection laws.8
8 Wildlife Trust Of India And Ors. vs Union Of India And Ors. on 7 March, 2018, kanoon