How the Beaver Families Won the Legal ‘Right to Remain’

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Environment and modernization are considered to be apart. Climate change is a reality we are facing. Our environment needs more attention now than ever! In such a situation, a decision like this has the potential to reflect the importance of wildlife conservation and the benefits that are shared.

Introduction

Beavers had been extinct in England since the last 400 years, until 2013. In 2013, a surprising video showed a family of beavers on the aptly-named Otter River, in Devon, England. With this appearance, they garnered the interests of various researchers and environmentalists in England. 

Devon Wildlife Trust conducted a detailed study. They researched beavers and their impact on the environment for almost five years. Their study shed light on the positive effects they had brought with their presence on the Otter River. The River Otter beaver trial showed that the animals’ skill replenished and enhanced the ecology of the river catchment in East Devon. You can read the full report here.

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Beavers have been termed as Nature’s engineers, as they create dams underwater. This, in fact, reduces the chances of homes flooding downstream. They have also improved the fish biomass and water quality of the river.

The Right to Remain

In a landmark decision, 15 Beaver Families were given the legal right to remain at the Otter-River in Devon. The decision was taken after looking at the astonishing positive aspects pointed out in the Devon Wildlife Study. They’re the first extinct native mammal to get government backing to be reintroduced.

This is not in isolation. Other factors are yet to be considered. The farmers and landowners will be provided with special assistance.  Natural England will be taking up the responsibility to draft a unique management approach so that a healthy ecosystem is maintained.

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This move is one step of the many. The Government has outlined a 25 Years Environment Plan which highlights key targets like clean air, minimizing waste and so on. You can read the jet highlights of the plan here. A significant mention is also given to thriving plants and wildlife. This report was chalked out in 2016 and updated in 2019. This landmark decision is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

The decision is facing criticism. Critics say that the beavers can trouble the framers and disrupt the fish population of the river. However, the Government is already planning a Land Management plan that will aim at ensuring less or no trouble to farmers.

This is not the first time such a landmark decision has been made. European beavers were successfully reintroduced into the wild in Scotland more than a decade ago, and in 2016 were given legal permission to remain by the devolved Government in Edinburgh.

Indian Context

India has also taken measures to protect its environment. We have been privy to various conventions and treaties in the environment. We have also successfully incorporated the principles like Polluter Pays and Sustainable Development in our Environmental Jurisprudence.

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We also have various legislations on Environment and Wildlife protection. Judiciary has played a pivotal role in bringing the concept of Environmental Jurisprudence to life. One such judgment was delivered on 4th July 2018 by the Uttarakhand High Court. The Hon’ble Court in Narayan Dutt Bhatt v Union of India & Others (Writ Petition (PIL) No. 43 of 2014),  effectively granted legal personhood to “the entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic,” with the citizens in the State of Uttarakhand being declared “persons in loco parentis as the human face for the welfare/protection of animals.”

Although we have all the legislation in place, their implementation remains a significant hurdle till date. Since most of the laws have been drafted decades ago, the fines prescribed in them are still very less. This leads to a lenient attitude towards obeying these laws. Moreover, the lesser conviction rates in these cases add to lenient behaviour.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the author would like to say that we need more such decisions. The environment can not be neglected especially during these times. Climate change is at its peak, so is development and modernization. Law is a tool that is vital during these times. If implemented correctly, it can create a better future for all. It will help in coexistence with humans with the environment around us.

We need better laws, better policies and most importantly, better implementation for a healthy and green future.


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