Friday, October 5, 2012

MoEF Reviews Phase-IV Monitoring in Tiger Reserves
Jayanthi Natarajan Addresses Commemorative Meeting to Mark Wildlife Week
A Commemorative meeting to mark the Wildlife Week and review the Phase-IV Monitoring in Tiger Reserves was held here today. It was addressed by the Minister for Environment & Forests, Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan and attended by Field Directors of Tiger Reserves, officials from NTCA and others.

Speaking on the occasion, the Minister pledged that she would stop at nothing to protect and preserve the wildlife of the country. “We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the animal corridors are made legal entities and are legally enforceable”. The Minister also said that the Ministry of Environment & Forests would ensure that habitat of wildlife are protected and the local and indigenous people around the habitat are made part of the conservation effort.

India has a good track record of both ‘in-situ’ as well as ‘ex-situ’ wildlife conservation. With 668 protected areas spread throughout the country, almost 5% of the country’s geographical area is earmarked for conservation.

Wildlife conservation is a collective responsibility between the Centre, States and Civil Society. The Ministry of Environment & Forests is assisting the States through various Centrally Sponsored Schemes for conserving wildlife. This includes the ‘Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats’, ‘Project Tiger’ and ‘Project Elephant’. There is also a Central Sector Scheme to support the Wildlife Division of the Ministry and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. The Scheme of ‘Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats’ also supports protection of wildlife outside protected areas, besides recovery programmes for critically endangered species.

The Project Tiger coverage has increased since its launch in 1973. From the initial 9 reserves, now there are 41 tiger reserves spread out in 17 of the States. This amounts to 2% of the country’s geographical area.

The Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger was revised in August 2011. Its allotment was stepped up for the XI Plan to Rs. 1216.86 crore, especially to support the States for securing inviolate space for tigers. A number of additional components have also been included: (i) Change in the funding pattern in respect of North Eastern States (90:10), (ii) raising compensation for man-animal conflict to Rs. 2 lakh, (iii) acquisition of private land for making the core/critical tiger habitat inviolate, (iv) establishment of Tiger Safari, interpretation/awareness centres under the existing component of ‘co-existence agenda in buffer/fringe areas’, and management of such centres through the respective Panchayati Raj Institutions, (v) re-introduction of Cheetah. Other initiatives include: (i) creation of the Kawal Tiger Reserve in Andhra Pradesh, (ii) giving in-principle to five new tiger reserve, viz. Pilibhit (Uttar Pradesh), Ratapani (Madhya Pradesh), Sunabeda (Orissa), Mukundara Hills (including Darrah, Jawahar Sagar and Chambal Wildlife Sanctuaries) (Rajasthan) and Sathyamangalam (Tamil Nadu), (iii) in-principle approval for use of CAMPA funds towards village relocation from core areas, (iv) completion of e-surveillance project in Corbett, and (v) launching ‘M-STrIPES’ monitoring protocol.

The Government has been following an aggressive ‘tiger agenda’ in the core areas of the tiger reserves. The strategy now is to ensure any equally aggressive ‘inclusive’ agenda in the peripheral/buffer areas to benefit people who live in such areas. Under Project Tiger, funding support is provided for such activities in the buffer.

The status of tiger and many wild animals continue to remain endangered. The Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) has been raised and deployed in three tiger reserves, viz. Bandipur (Karnataka), Tadoba-Andhari (Maharashtra) and Pench (Maharashtra). The Government has provided central assistance (100%) to Odisha for raising this force in Similipal. Action is awaited in this regard from Corbett (Uttarakhand), Ranthambhore (Rajasthan) and Dudhwa (Uttar Pradesh).

Tiger and other wildlife cannot be protected by excluding local people. The Government’s endeavour all along has been to deploy local workforce in protection. In all, approximately 24 lakh mandays are generated annually with 50% central assistance amounting to around Rs. 24 crore (excluding matching 50% share given by States) under Project Tiger. Many local tribes constitute such local workforce (besides non-tribals), e.g. Baigas, Gonds in Madhya Pradesh, Gonds in Maharashtra, Chenchus in Andhra Pradesh, Sholigas in Karnataka, Gujjars in Uttarakhand and Irulas in Tamil Nadu to name a few. The deployment of such local tribals has been fostered/encouraged in the last two years.

On the international front, the Government has strengthened its bilaterals with the neighbouring and other countries. A bilateral arrangement has been recently formalized with Bangladesh on tiger conservation. Delegations are interacting with Nepal and China within the framework of existing bilateral arrangements. A sub-group on tiger/leopard conservation has been constituted for cooperation with the Russian Federation, which has met recently.

The Government has provided enabling provisions in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, to strengthen the implementation of the CITES and towards enhancement of penalties for contravention of provisions of the Act.

A big progress has been made towards tiger reserves specific Phase-IV monitoring. Building up the capacity of the field officers and staff to use the state-of-the-art protocol and field methods is important and will be encouraged.

The challenge is to ensure conservation of the endangered wildlife, besides fostering development. The Government’s efforts in this direction has been to have ‘better growth’ giving due importance to conservation rather than ‘more growth’ at the cost of the wildlife and their habitat. 

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