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KARACHI, June 30: A draft of the Sindh Wildlife Act, 2010 — an important piece of document meant to replace the outdated Sindh Wildlife Ordinance, 1972 — has been awaiting government approval for more than a year, sources told Dawn on Saturday.

Prepared after extensive deliberations among relevant stakeholders, including government officials, senior wildlife experts and representatives of non-governmental organisations, the 171-page draft had been lying with the Sindh wildlife department administrative wing for the past one year after the law department had asked it to make the document concise, the sources added.

Sindh Forest and Wildlife Secretary Mushtaq Ali Memon confirmed to Dawn that the draft was referred back to the wildlife department, because the document had been found to be ‘too big’.

He said: “K.K. consultants are working on it. It’s the same private consultancy service that had earlier drafted the act,” he added, though the draft of the act mentions that it has been prepared by Rao Sustainable Development Consulting and Services (SMC-Pvt) Ltd.

The secretary also could not give any time frame for the completion of the task. “I can’t tell right now how much time they would take to complete the job,” he observed.

However, the sources said that the wildlife department had not yet forwarded the document to any consultant for an abridged edition. They said the draft was a ‘powerful piece of document’ and it was for this reason that the government was reluctant to take it up.

Salient features of the act

The draft act is said to be the most comprehensive document on wildlife ever formulated in the country, because it takes care of all international obligations on wildlife as well as local sensitivities on the subject and has actually broadened the definition of wildlife that was earlier restricted to wild animals only.

For instance, it includes an entire chapter on multilateral environmental agreements, which bound the government to fulfil its commitments on Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, World Cultural and Heritage Convention, Ramsar Convention and UN Framework Convention to Combat Desertification.

“The ecological character of Ramsar Sites shall be maintained and any change in the same shall be reported to the Ramsar Bureau through the government of Pakistan,” says clause 62 of Chapter VIII.

The document also takes into account the climate change issue and says “the government shall endeavour to promote sequestration of carbon by effective management of protected areas, including forest reserve, to stabilise or reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and achieve a level within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change.”

Need for legislation

Munir Awan, a former conservator wildlife who participated in the meetings held to prepare the draft, said: “The inclusion of international commitments is one of the key features of this draft that is absent in the decades’ old piece of law. The province needs an entirely new law, as socio-economic conditions have drastically changed over the years and new problems have emerged, besides the changing global perspective,” he added.

All provinces, he said, had revised their wildlife rules and now it’s about time that Sindh, too, updated its relevant rules and regulations.

“A lot of brainstorming had gone into preparation of the draft. The stakeholders not only studied and discussed the revised versions of wildlife rules of other provinces, but also took into account the regional regulations in place,” he said.

Emphasis on community participation was another important concept introduced for the first time which changed the punitive outlook of the old law, he added.

The draft act envisages a boarder role of the wildlife department and suggests that it takes up in-situ (conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats in their natural surroundings) and ex-situ conservation (conservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitat).

Wildlife board’s revival According to him, yet another important aspect of the draft act is the revival of the Sindh Wildlife Management Board, which had played an important role in the implementation of wildlife rules and regulations before it ceased to function years back.

“The government shall establish Sindh Wildlife Management Board and shall allocate budget for the board to carry out its functions,” says the document.

The board will comprise seven renowned conservationists from civil society in the province and two representatives from international organisations, besides having a well-reputed conservationist as its vice chairman, according to the draft.

It bounds the government to take board’s approval before taking certain measures — (a) shifting of protected animals from schedule-1 to schedule-2 of game animals (b) reintroduction of any native species of wild animal (c) prevent release into wild or in protected areas any exotic wild animals and plants (d) trophy hunting (e) exemption of trapping, capturing and killing for scientific purpose, overseeing import and export of wild animals for scientific purpose (f) leasing out state land for a private game farm with the approval of Sindh revenue department (g) readjustment in land uses (h) fixing game hunting and trophy hunting fees annually for hunting in certain protected areas (i) registration of captive breeding facilities, wildlife parks, aviaries, zoos, zoological gardens or zoo-cum-botanic gardens (j) exemption in internal trade of CITES specimens.

The document widens the list of protected areas and enhances powers of wildlife department officials. There are clauses pertaining to cruelty to wild animals and killing in self-defence.

It bars people from keeping a zoo without registration and suggests significant increase in fine for violation of the wildlife rules.

It also recommends the establishment of Sindh Wildlife Conservation and Development Fund.

WWF help

Representing the World Wide for Nature (WWF), which played a key role in draft preparation, Nasir Panhwar said: “We have done our job. Now, it’s up to the department to push its case though we are very much willing to help the government if technical assistance is required.”He said a number of factors were responsible for wildlife destruction in the province and a holistic approach was needed to save what was left in the nature.