New Delhi, Jun 20 (PTI) Painting a grim picture of the ongoing environmental crisis in India, a new book shows the poor implementation of the country’s conservation laws and their dilution to facilitate development.

“The Vanishing: India’s Wildlife Crisis” penned by environmentalist Prerna Singh Bindra shows how projects like the Ken-Betwa river link, the expansion of NH 7, and the prospects of Uranium mining among others are advocating development at the expense of the environment.

“India has perhaps the finest conservation laws, but they are poorly implemented, bypassed, ignored, and circumvented.

“The other problem is that the laws and conservation policies are being diluted, largely to accommodate the ease of doing business, to facilitate faster approvals for industries and infrastructure,” Bindra told PTI.

With only about five per cent of India’s land protected as sanctuaries or national parks, the increasing habitat destruction and fragmentation are posing a threat to the country’s wildlife.

“Reckless development is fragmenting even this minuscule part of India, which is the refuge of India’s spectacular and rare wildlife, with railway lines, highways, canals, wires criss-crossing the reserves; plus there are villages, temples, townships, reservoirs, mines within these areas, and in their immediate vicinity,” the author said.

Regarded as a global leader in conservation, India is refuge to species that are almost extinct elsewhere.

Bindra notes that despite the country’s conservation efforts, a lack of commitment points to a grim future with several species becoming extinct.

“India’s is a great conservation success story with the largest number of tigers and elephants, and refuge to species like gharial and Ganges dolphins which are nearly extinct elsewhere.

“But India is lacking the will, and the commitment, to conserve, and if the current rate continues, wildlife faces a grim future,” she said.

While species like Indian bustard, hangul and gharial remain critically endangered, wolves and lesser floricans are becoming locally extinct in former habitats with a drastic decline in their number.

The former journalist who grew up exploring wetlands and woods in her neighbourhood, decided to be a part of the system after being disturbed by the “silence that surrounded this destruction of forests and a deteriorating environment”.

“High-rise apartments and shopping complexes were coming up in open spaces and wetlands, the neighbourhood woods were shaved to make way for an electric power station, the pools we dunked in to escape the summer heat had reduced to smelly drains, frothing with toxic fumes.

“A part of the Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary (Gujarat), where I saw my first wolves, was cut up to accommodate a cement plant,” she said.

While government’s initiatives can help the environment, Bindra feels the onus also lies with each individual who can lend support to those who are engaged in conserving environment by using their skills to influence others around them.

“If you are a teacher, you can influence your students in the cause. If you are a lawyer, you could use your legal skills in fighting cases to protect a crucial wildlife corridor, or raise your voice against the destruction of a wetland in your neighbourhood.

“Nature needs a greater constituency unless the electorate speaks up, the governments won’t give wildlife priority,” she said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.