India, Nepal, Bhutan plan joint task force to protect wildlife
The governments of India, Nepal and Bhutan are actively considering having a joint task force for allowing free movement of wildlife across political boundaries and checking smuggling of wildlife across the Kanchenjunga Landscape, a trans-boundary region spread across Nepal, India and Bhutan.
The developments comes up after forest officials and representatives of non-government organisation of the three countries visited parts of the landscape and later held a meeting at Siliguri in north Bengal earlier this month.
Participants from India and Bhutan who attended the meeting said that setting up of a joint task force was a key requirement in the road map on achieving the objectives of free movement of wildlife and checking smuggling of wildlife.
The landscape stretches along the southern side of Mount Kanchenjunga covers an area of 25,080 sq km spread across parts of eastern Nepal (21 per cent), Sikkim and West Bengal (56 per cent) and western and south-western parts of Bhutan (23 per cent).
From India, Ravinkanta Sinha, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, West Bengal participated in the meeting, whereas Nepal was represented by G P Bhattarai, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation of that country. The Bhutanese delegation was led by Tashi Tobgyel, Department of Forest and Park Services, Bhutan. Representatives of South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network, an inter-governmental wildlife law enforcement agency, which held its first ever meeting in India in May 2018, were also present during the meeting.
According to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development ( ICIMOD), a regional knowledge development and learning centre, 1,118 sq km of riverine grassland and tree cover were lost in the landscape between 2000 and 2010. 74 per cent of the area was converted into rangeland and 26 per cent to agricultural land.
Other than seven million people, the Kanchenjunga Landscape is also home to 169 species of mammals and 713 species of birds.
Studies by the ICIMOD suggest that between 1986 and 2015, as many as 425 people were killed by elephants (an average of 14 human deaths every year) and 144 elephants were killed between 1958 and 2013 (an average of three elephants every year).
S P Pandey of SPOAR, a north Bengal-based wildlife organisation, who also participated in the discussion, said that every few months there were cases of elephants, rhino and gaurs and other mammals crossing over political boundaries, triggering panic among locals across the border and also posing danger to the wildlife.
Source: The Hindu