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Outcry over govt’s proposal to place IWMB under interior ministry

ISLAMABAD: The government’s proposal to place Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) under the Ministry of Interior, and limit its role to an advisory body caused an outcry on Sunday.

Seeking amendments in the Islamabad (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Ordinance, 1979, the government seeks to place the board under the Ministry of Interior which is charged with the administration of Islamabad Capital Territory.

“The proposed amendments in Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Ordinance, 1979, will ensure the protection of wild life more efficiently and effectively,” as the per the government’s Statement of Object and Reasons.

According to a source in the Ministry of Climate Change, under which IWMB comes, the proposed amendments in law and rules would essentially place the subject of wildlife under MoI and turn the board into an advisory body and place the organisation of the board under Capital Development Authority (CDA).

PM’s aide says goal is to make things easier, bring animal rights at centre of one department

“With the board drawing plans and policies, all powers of staff will go to CDA, which will be the executing body. We go back to where we started. CDA is a development agency and it is unlikely that it will understand nature conservation,” the source said.

IWMB was transferred from Capital Administration Development Division (CADD) to Ministry of Climate Change in 2018, after it argued in the high court that entrusting a developing authority to work on conservation of nature was not in the character of CDA, which was set up as a development agency.

CDA held a grudge against IWMB, when the board came in and took the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) away from the civic body. However, according to the source, the Ministry of Climate Change, which was initially interested in the functioning of the IWMB, was not eager to hang on to the board anymore.

Nonetheless, it may be recalled that in the last 40 years, under CDA, the MHNP saw much deterioration and harm including extinction of the cheer pheasant and the grey gural (wild goat) from the Kalinjar Valley.

CDA was also responsible for allowing commercial activities such as establishment of Monal and other eateries that dump dirty water into the protected area, cutting down of the forest, and expansion of encroachments.

“With that kind of track record, how could you justify that CDA, which by its own mandate thinks development, thinks sectors and building of roads, be entrusted with preservation of nature? They can’t leave nature alone,” said a member of IWMB Vaqar Zakaria, adding that the nature of business needs to be understood. The fundamental issue was not under which ministry the IWMB fell.

“If the city wants its natural area preserved then the board must be strengthened and empowered. An ideal situation is where the board and CDA are working together.

The current chairman of CDA Noorul Amin Mengal, is doing all the right things, assisting the board where needed, assisting us bring nature into the city to make Islamabad a better city, which has well preserved natural areas in it and developed areas that have a healthy environment,“ Mr Zakaria added.

As an alternate to transferring IWMB to the Ministry of Interior, the members of the board have forwarded a copy of its draft Islamabad Nature Act, for consideration by the government. The Act states that issues of massive degradation of vegetation and wildlife in the MHNP will be dealt with.

It proposes upgrading MHNP to international standards to demonstrate that the country could fulfill its international obligations relating to biodiversity and climate change and place it in a position to access the emerging international financing and support available for protection of biodiversity such as Green Funds.

It also introduces the concept of nature (as opposed to only wildlife) which was all encompassing and in line with emerging best practices in the world for protection of biodiversity and calls for financial strength and sustainability through empowering the board to raise funds through collection of fees and charges and apply penalties for violation of national park and wildlife rules as was the established practice in the legislation of all provinces.

Talking to Dawn, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Strategic Reforms Salman Sufi, said that some of the amendments were under review.

“As ICT comes under the MoI, it was discussed that one department should be made the core of all activities rather work being shuffled between two. Most laws related to animals suffer as the Ministry of Climate Change does not have infrastructure within ICT but the interior ministry does. The board, in any case, will retain all its powers and functions while CDA will assist them wherever needed,” he added.

The goal, he said, is to end the long route and bring animal rights to the centre of one department.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2023

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