AR-News: (India) Wildlife panel to decide price of Bustard land

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Tue Oct 14 16:51:14 EDT 2003


NEW DELHI: When the new National Board for Wildlife meets for the first time 
on Wednesday under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, it will decide the 
price of the Great Indian Bustard’s territory.

On the table is an ONGC proposal to drill in the desert national park near 
Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, paying just a fifth of what it should as compensation. 
In other words, for eating into 24.5 hectares of this park, it should pay Rs 5 
crore as compensation. ONGC wants to pay Rs 1 crore, pleading the amount is 
too much. 
The case has been referred to the board by the Supreme Court, which has 
allowed the exploration work. While the Great Indian Bustard may be the most famous 
resident of the desert sands and wood fossils Rajasthan park, it is home to 
many more: The spiny-tailed lizard, hares, wolves, foxes, desert monitors, 
sandfish, chameleons and snakes such as saw-scaled viper and Sind Krait.
A committee set up by the board’s earlier version, Indian Board for Wildlife, 
agreed to the diversion of 24 hectares subject to initial compensation of Rs 
5 crore for the park’s conservation and management. It also stipulated that if 
oil or gas was struck, the state government would declare an adequate 
additional area for the park. By then, the old advisory Board was out and the new 
one, a statutory body, hadn’t been set up.
Its constitution now, with many retired and serving bureaucrats and minus 
some of the better-known conservationists, has not only been challenged in court 
but has left wildlife lovers uneasy. They believe the idea is to get in people 
who will not rock the boat and fear the agenda could be to derecognise parks 
and alter boundaries at a time when wildlife trade seems to be on the rise. 
Conservationists cite the instance of a March 2002 order setting up a wildlife 
crime cell to gather intelligence on the trade and spur enforcement. Till 
today, they say, it hasn’t taken off.
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