Critical Review and Future Directions: Deliberations on Ladakh’s Wildlife Sanctuaries

Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, Brigadier (Dr) BD Mishra (Retd), conducted a review and discussion on the status of the rationalization of the Karakoram and Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuaries at the LG Secretariat on December 9.

Present at the meeting, both physically and virtually, were Chairman of LAHDC Leh, Advocate Tashi Gyalson; Member of Parliament from Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal; Deputy Chairman of LAHDC Leh, Tsering Angchuk; Advisor Dr. Pawan Kotwal; Executive Councillors Tashi Namgyal Yakzee and Ghulam Mehdi; Commissioner Secretary Dr. Vasanthakumar; Secretary to LG Ravinder Kumar; APCCF Brij Mohan Sharma; Chief Wildlife Warden Sajjad Hussain Mufti; Deputy Commissioner of Leh Santosh Sukhadeve, and officials from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

Advisor Dr. Pawan Kotwal briefed the LG on the legal status of the Wildlife Sanctuaries. He discussed the notification and management of the protected areas under the J&K Wildlife Protection Act 1978, the repeal of the Act through the J&K Reorganisation Act 2019, the extension of the Central Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 to UT Ladakh, and the ongoing determination of rights of the people in Karakoram Wildlife Sanctuary, slated for completion in 2022. He clarified that there is no legal distinction between the core area and the buffer zone of the protected wildlife sanctuary.

Kotwal informed the LG about a letter he wrote to Dr. Sathyakumar, Scientist G at WII Dehradun, requesting ‘maps of the wildlife sanctuaries in accordance with the boundaries laid down in the notifications No’s SRO 155 (Changthang WLS) and SRO 152 (Karakoram WLS),’ to be the starting point for any rationalization exercise. He noted that WII Dehradun generated a map with increased WLS areas, contrary to the UT Administration’s communication.

Chairman LAHDC Leh, Tashi Gyalson; MP Ladakh, and Deputy Chairman LAHDC Leh emphasized the need to renotify the Karakoram and Changthang Wildlife Sanctuaries, pointing out various loopholes in the notifications regarding fixing wildlife boundaries.

Highlighting that the rationalization of boundaries has been ongoing for the past few months, the LG emphasized the involvement of stakeholders such as the protection of Ladakh’s wildlife, the local inhabitants, and the ground reality. He stressed the importance of considering the current situation and the conditions of people living in these wildlife sanctuaries. The LG requested WII Dehradun to adhere to the Terms of Reference (ToR) provided by the administration.

The LG instructed the concerned officials of the Wildlife/Forest Department, UT Ladakh, to prepare a case outlining dichotomies, public grievances, and interim permissions needed for individuals engaged in tourism activities, such as running homestays, hotels/guest houses in wildlife sanctuaries. This case would be presented to the Ministry of Home Affairs for necessary guidance before proceeding further with the rationalization of the boundaries of the Karakoram and Changthang Wildlife Sanctuaries.

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