The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife and Biodiversity Bill 2014 proposes reforms in a sector largely neglected for decades. The draft was tabled in the provincial assembly on November 24, and once passed, it will overwrite the Wildlife Act 1975.
K-P chief conservator Syed Mubarak Ali Shah told The Express Tribune an up-to-date law is the need of the hour and the new draft resolves all loopholes in the previous legislation. According to Section 4 (1) of the bill, a copy of which lies with The Express Tribune, the entire wildlife establishment, excluding ministerial staff, shall be deemed a “wildlife force and constituted in a prescribed manner”.
Shah confirmed the force will come under the wildlife department after the enactment of this law. He added the previous legislation dates back to 1975 and with the course of time has seen major challenges.
Members of the wildlife force will have their own uniform and will be provided with sophisticated equipment, arms and communication systems. Wildlife officers will be authorised to use force as and where they deem necessary seizing property, recovering wildlife, and producing, detaining or taking into custody any offender who acts against the protection, preservation, conservation and management guidelines, as laid down by the law.
The force will also be entitled to use force in intercepting, checking, apprehending, searching or preventing the escape of suspects.
However, they will only be allowed to use arms under necessary conditions of self-defence or in following directives of a superior not below the rank of a wildlife range officer.
Officers will also be able to bear testimony before the court within the listings of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
A comprehensive overhaul
Once the bill is approved, a K-P wildlife and biodiversity board will be formed. Headed by the chief minister, the board will also have a wildlife fund.
The law will provide for declaring and demarcating natural heritage sites with a view to protecting natural, physical, and biological formations that are of “outstanding national or global value from an aesthetic or scientific point of view”. The board will be able to declare and define any such area and regulate its management, autonomously.
The bill also entitles the government to declare any area it deems right to be a wildlife sanctuary, through a notification in the official gazette. Furthermore, the bill lays down participatory wildlife management guidelines wherein each protected area will be governed by a conservation committee.
Section 11 states that all wild animals, free ranging or captive, tamed or untamed found within the territorial jurisdiction of the province shall be the property of the government. In case of misuse or abuse of government property, wildlife officers shall be able to exercise powers under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1890.
These listings are seen as a major boost of the cause of preventing unwarranted poaching and preserving endangered species and the ecosystem.
Protection of species
The third schedule of the law contains a comprehensive list of animals that are to be protected. They can neither be hunted down nor taken captive. A violation will lead to criminal prosecution.
Lastly, the fourth schedule lays down the nature of offences and penalties.
It has set a sentence of three years and a fine of Rs45,000 for harming “Markhor, Urial, Ibex, Musk deer, Goral, Chinkara, Barking deer, Hog deer, black and brown bear and leopard. While a year in the slammer and Rs45,000 is the penalty for hunting the Siberian crane, Saker and Peregrine falcon.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2014.