Though the Supreme Court directed the prime minister-led National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) to include the endangered scented wood Red Sanders (red sandalwood) in the Wildlife Protection Act, the government has not yet taken a call on this mandate.
The court had last week referred to its earlier directions that had imposed a complete ban on the trade of sandalwood, sale of imported sandalwood goods strictly under the name of the country of its origin and imparting the status of this Rs70,000-a-tonne scarce produce of protected species under the Wild Life Act.
Red sandalwood is a species of Pterocarpus — native of India. It is found only in South India, especially in Cuddapah and Chittoor in Tamil Nadu and Andhra border. It is also known as Lal Chandan or Rakta Chandan which is an endemic and endangered species.
All the sandalwood-producing states, including Andhra Pradesh and Maharasthra, have unanimously told the top court that the wood is facing imminent threat. It has been reported that the authorities have seized about 7,000 tonnes of the wood from ‘poachers’ and ‘smugglers’.
The top court has asked the government to take appropriate actions to include Red Sanders in Schedule-VI of the Wildlife Protection Act. “We are giving this direction since it is reported that this species is not seen anywhere else in the world, except in India, and we owe it to the world to safeguard this endangered species for posterity,” the apex court added. The government can liberate it from the wild life protection law once it is satisfied that the wood is no longer under threat.
Stake holder states have also been asked by the court to “immediately close down all un-licensed sandalwood oil factories, if functioning, and take effective measures for proper supervision and control of the existing licensed sandalwood oil factories in their territories.”
Concerned with the total neglect of the wild life and plants like Red Sanders, the top court said, “The time has also come to think of a legislation similar to the Endangered Species Act which is enacted in the United States.” If the government agrees to enact this law, several species, including fish, wildlife and plants would get legislative protection.