The article is about National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and other forms of PA’s in India. It also emphasizes some of the legal provisions enjoyed by such areas and the basic do’s and dont’s.

Protected Areas of India and Sikkim

What are protected areas? How are they protected and why? Who are they protected against? These are some of the questions that come to mind naturally. And these are the very questions that we ought to know the answers to, as informed citizens.

In India we have, at present, four categories of Protected Areas (PAs), these are National Parks, Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves which are provided legal sanctity by the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. However, there are six categories specified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and different countries have different categories of PAs as per their requirements and norms laid by their Governments. A definition of a PA given by IUCN reads:

“An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.’

The Protected Areas are dealt in Chapter IV in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 starting with Sanctuaries, once the State Government notifies its intentions to declare an area as a sanctuary under section 18 of the WL (P)A, 1972, it undergoes the process of acquiring the area within two years ensuring that all rights and claims are settled within this time period. Then finally under section 26 (A) the area is declared as a Sanctuary which can be any area comprised within any reserve forest or any part of the territorial waters, which is considered by the State Government to be of adequate ecological, faunal, geomorphological, natural or zoological significance for the purpose of protection, propagating of developing wild life or its environment, is to be included in a sanctuary. The subsequent sections, till sec 34 (A), provides such an area with legal protection and also vests the powers of protection on various offices and authorities within the Forest and Wildlife Departments.  Similarly the State Government declares an area as a National Park under sec 35 (4) and the protection clauses apply to a National Park as they apply to a sanctuary.

The State Government may, after having consultations with the local communities, declare any area owned by the Government, particularly the areas adjacent to National Parks and sanctuaries and those areas which link one PA with another, as a Conservation Reserve u/s 36 (A) for protection of landscapes, seascapes, flora, fauna and their habitats. The State Government may, where the community or an individual has volunteered to conserve wildlife and its habitat, declare any private or community land not comprised within a National Park, sanctuary or a conservation reserve as  a Community Reserve u/s 36 (C) for protecting  fauna, flora and traditional or cultural conservation values and practices. Some of the protection clauses in relation to a sanctuary apply to the Conservation and Community reserves but not all.

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