680 projects in wildlife rich and protected areas were cleared in past 5 years

All 48 members of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), which comes under the Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), have never met during the last five years.

The standing committee of the NBWL, which is also authorised to decide on matters related to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, has conducted 23 meetings between 2015-16 and 2019-20.

During these meetings, wildlife clearance has been recommended for 680 projects located in wildlife-rich areas, the MoEFCC has informed the Rajya Sabha (RS) during the ongoing 18-day uninterrupted session of Parliament that started from Monday amid the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.

The Prime Minister is the chairman of the NBWL, which also has three members of the Parliament (MPs), five persons representing non-governmental organisations (NGOs), 10 eminent conservationists or experts, the heads of Central Zoo Authority; the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO); the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI); secretary, Union ministry of tribal affairs; and a representative each from 10 states and union territories (UTs) on a rotational basis and others in the 48-member body.

The NBWL was constituted in 2003 after the amendment of Section 5A in the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

According to the minutes of the NBWL’s meetings uploaded on the MoEFCC’s Parivesh website, 24 members had met on July 3. But on June 11, five members met and on April 7, 26 representatives took part through a video-conference.

In a reply to another query, the MoEFCC has said that it has received 31 coal mining projects for clearance this year. Out of these, 14 projects have been granted environment clearance, while seven have either withdrawn their application or not participated in the appraisal process.

The clearances for the rest of the projects are pending because of additional queries raised by the appraisal committee.

Out of the 31 coal mining projects, 11 are in Maharashtra, and the rest are located in Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh (MP).

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