Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday gave the nod to declaring the endangered Indus River Dolphin, found only in Beas River India, as Punjab State Aquatic Animal.Chairing the 2nd Meeting of State Board for Wildlife here, Captain Amarinder Singh said that the Indus Dolphin, a rare aquatic mammal, would be the flagship species for the conservation of the Beas River eco-system.The Chief Minister also gave approval to declare Kanjli Wetland and holy Kali Bein River as a wildlife conservation reserve to mark the historic 550th Parkash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The sacred Kali Bein River was associated with the life of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who got enlightenment while taking a dip in the holy river. The Chief Minister said that the declaration of the area as conservation reserve would contribute to maintaining the region’s ecological balance and also to the cleanliness of the river, which had become polluted with the passage of time.Taking serious note of the erratic flow of water in Beas River, the Chief Minister ordered the Water Resources Department to ensure minimum flow of 5000-6000 cusecs of water to ensure continuity of water streams and to curtail the resultant threat to wildlife. Captain Amarinder Singh also directed the Chief Wildlife Warden to immediately initiate the process of declaring River Beas as a Heritage River given its historical, cultural, social and religious significance.Appreciating the initiative of Gharial Re-introduction Project in the Beas river, the Chief Minister also gave approval for establishing Turtle Hatcheries at Harike, besides releasing more Gharials Hatchlings in Beas River to ensure conservation of these highly endangered species.Underlining the need to develop eco-tourism in Shivalik and around wetland, the Chief Minister asked the Wildlife Department to implement the Karnataka Model of Jungle Lodges in coordination with key private players in this field. He constituted a committee of Principal Chief Wildlife Warden and Director Tourism & MD Punjab State Forest Corporation to examine the entire issue and submit their report within 30 days.
Responding to the concern expressed by environmentalist Reema Dhillon for protection of Shalla Pattan Wetlands, Gurdaspur - the last habitat of common crane in Punjab, the Chief Minister asked the State Wildlife Department and Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, to come out with an action plan for compensating the local farmers in case they keep their land fallow for one season.Taking serious view of the growing population of the wild boar, the Chief Minister asked the Wildlife Department to carry out a special census of the wild boar population in the state, and suggested declaring it vermin for one year if it is found to be beyond the carrying capacity of wild areas. He also launched a mobile app for granting online permits for hunting of wild boar and Roz in areas where they were creating problems for the farmers.The Chief Minister also announced his government’s decision to ban the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Aceclofenac for veterinary use to ensure vulture conservation. He directed the Director Animal Husbandry to take up the issue with the Government of India.Underscoring the need to create awareness amongst students on the need for conservation of wildlife and ecology, the Chief Minister asked the School Education Department to include the subject of wildlife in its curriculum. He also asked the Finance Department to find out ways and means for funding visits of school children to zoos and other wildlife sanctuaries to acquaint them with the subject.Showing deep concern over the menace of stray cattle across the state, the Chief Minister said that it was now posing a major threat to the safety and security of the people. To address this problem on priority, Captain Amarinder Singh asked the Wildlife Department to work out modalities in sync with the Animal Husbandry Department for shifting and rehabilitating the stray cattle in those Birs which were not wildlife sanctuaries.
The Chief Minister also constituted a committee comprising eminent members of the State Board of Wildlife, including Major AP Singh, Hardit Singh Sidhu, Col. P.S. Grewal and Jaskaran Singh and officers of Wildlife Department, to examine certain issues related to formation of separate directorate of Wildlife & Wetlands and Forests and restoration of Bir Moti Bagh wildlife Sanctuary for removal of mesquite (Vilaytee kikkar) to ensure restoration of indigenous vegetation so as to provide a natural habitat to various wildlife species and check illegal hunting in the state.The Chief Minister gave permission to the wild life department to initiate the process of importing wild animals such as zebra, giraffe, chimpanzee and gorilla from African countries for Chhattbir Zoo to improve the animal collection and the footfall there. Acceding to a request of the wildlife department, the Chief Minister asked the Additional Chief Secretary Forests to send a comprehensive proposal for transferring the revenue generated from Chhattbir Zoo to the accounts of Punjab Zoos Development Society instead of the state treasury so as to ensure smooth functioning of the zoo and upkeep of the wild animals.The meeting was attended, among others, by Forests Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, MLAs Inderbir Singh Bolaria and Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, Additional Chief Secretary Forests Roshan Sunkaria, Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh, Chief Wildlife Warden Dr. Kuldip Kumar, PCCF Jitendra Sharma, Director Fisheries Dr. Madan Mohan and Director Animal Husbandry Dr Inderjit Singh and senior fellow from Wildlife Institute of India Dr. Anil Bhardwaj. The non-official members attended the meeting included Narvir Kahlon, Rupinder Sandhu and Vishavdev Singh.