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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NBWL-MoEF conflict on tiger, elephant corridors

TUESDAY, 15 NOVEMBER 2011 23:09 PIONEER NEWS SERVICE | NEW DELHI HITS: 98 Resentment was already simmering amongst the members of National board For Wildlife (NBWL) against their gradually diminishing role in the wildlife vs development issue. Now with the Environment Ministry officials raising their voices for further clipping its powers, the Board that is headed by the Prime-Minister now stands face to face against the forest bureaucracy. According to well-placed sources in the Ministry, a proposal has been mooted before the Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on the circumvention of the mandate of the Board to decide on the clearance of projects pertaining to tiger and elephant reserves. The Ministry should go ahead on its own, the proposal noted. Jayanthi is however yet to take any decision on it. “Though we are shocked to learn of such a proposal from the forest officials, the move has not caught us off-guard”, said a NBWL member on condition of anonymity. The fact that the NBWL was getting reduced to a clearance house and rubber stamp of the Ministry was already evident when as many as 40 proposals were cleared in two hours in the 21st Standing Committee meeting of the Board on April 25, he pointed out. The meeting was a mere formality and was conducted in great haste and less 72 hours were given to study the proposals for assessment. Exasperated several members had written letters to the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh expressing their dissent. The flashpoint according to the sources came after the wildlife experts in the standing committee had objected to a number of projects cleared by the Ministry during the tenure of Jairam Ramesh, overruling the objections of the former. The embarrassed forest officials had somehow managed to defend themselves at the meeting aggravating further bitterness. The mandate of the NBWL had been decided by a Supreme Court order which states that all such projects that can impact protected areas, national parks and sanctuaries, need to pass through the scanner of the standing committee of the NWBL before the Government can give them clearance. The demarcated tiger and elephant reserves that add up to 71,000 sq km of some of the best forests of the country are being eyed for several mining and other projects.

Corbett Park bid to mitigate conflict between humans, wild animals

MONDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 2011 23:49 PARITOSH KIMOTHI | DEHRADUN HITS: 204 The Corbett National Park which is commemorating its Platinum Jubilee this year not only sustains a high tiger population, but is also a treasure trove of diversity in flora and fauna of the Terai-Bhabar landscape with 55 species of mammals, 33 species of aquatic fauna and about 685 species of birds. However, the authorities also face different challenges like facilitating free movement of wild animals on wildlife corridors and mitigating human-wildlife conflict in ensuring that the wildlife and environment in the first national park of Asia and third in the world thrives in the future. At the time of its establishment in 1936, Corbett covered an area of 323.75 sq km which increased to 1288.31 sq km in 1991 after the addition of the Kalagarh forest division and parts of Ramnagar and Terai West forest divisions. This area of the tiger reserve comprises 821.99 sq km of critical tiger habitat and 466.32 sq km of buffer zone. In the decades since Project Tiger was launched here in 1973, the population of tigers in the Corbett Tiger Reserve landscape has increased to over 200, according to the latest tiger census. Tiger being an apex predator, its conservation leads to the conservation of other flora and fauna. The conservation efforts put in from 1974 to 2011 have resulted in an increase in the population of important species, including elephants, leopards, spotted deer, sambar and barking deer. The Corbett field director Ranjan Kumar Mishra states that the national park presently faces four major challenges which include facilitating free movement of wild animals on wildlife corridors, mitigating human-wildlife conflict, providing quality facilities to tourists and receiving timely allocation of budget. Measures taken for wildlife protection include introduction of an E-eye surveillance system in CTR for the first time anywhere in the tiger reserves of India, to monitor 400 sq km of highly sensitive border area and check any unsolicited intrusion. A total of nine towers will be established with thermal cameras and night vision equipment which can be monitored remotely through computers. This system is aimed at deterring the movements of poachers as their movement will be monitored and recorded. A well-equipped veterinary unit has also been established to treat and rescue injured wild animals. Mishra said that 200 local youths are working under the Operation Lords scheme to protect tigers from poachers in the buffer areas, while 60 ex-army personnel are employed under the Tiger Protection Force to supplement departmental staff for protection of tiger and its habitat. Tourism in Corbett is the backbone of economy in Ramnagar and adjoining areas. In 2000-01, Rs 84.66 lakh revenue was generated from the arrival of 62,632 tourists. This increased to a revenue of Rs 6.42 crore generated from the arrival of 1,89,793 tourists in 2010-11. To further enhance facilities for tourists, internet booking facility will also be inaugurated by the chief minister on November 15. This facility will make it more convenient for tourists to access the five tourist zones and 19 forest rest houses with a total of 192 beds. Measures aimed at enhancing tourism and protecting the environment at the same time include the Mahasheer Conservation Programme under which local people are involved in protection of the Mahasheer fish through the Angling Association. Locals employed in Corbett include 87 guides, 26 room attendants, 176 drivers and a larger number in the private sector. The challenge for the authorities now is to capitalise on existing resources and developing facilities to ensure the protection of wildlife and environment in Corbett while also addressing issues concerning local residents and tourists.