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Monday, April 16, 2012

Adivasis up in arms against Kawal Tiger Project

Nagaraju Koppula HYDERABAD: Tribal organisations and Adivasi leaders are up in arms against the government’s recent declaration on Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary in the Jannaram forests of Adilabad district, and are planning protest rallies and awareness meeting from April 20. Ever since the government announced on April 11 that the sanctuary would be developed, tribal leaders with their respective communities conducted meetings on the issue across the state, and decided to intensify the agitation against development of KWS, according to Midiam Babu Rao, former CPM MP and state president of Girijana Sangham. "We are going to form a group with NGOs working for tribal rights in the state, and will launch rallies and campaigns against the tiger reserve project. Rallies will be held first in the four mandals of Jannaram, Kadem, Gutnoor and Mancherial in Adilabad district. Simultaneously, campaigns will be launched in nine Integrated Tribal Development Agencies in the state,'' he said. The Adivasi leaders demand immediate withdrawal of the government's plan on the sanctuary. “If government wants to work on KWS, it has to hold gram sabhas, conduct socio-economic survey and find out the net present value (NPV) of individuals and tribals in villages which will be affected. We will allow the sanctuary project if the government fulfils our demands and provide reasonable compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation to the tribals,” Babu Rao said, recalling a “bitter'' experience with regard to RR package for the Srisailam tiger reserve and the elephant park in Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts. “This time the government cannot cheat us,'' he said. The Kawal Wildlife sanctuary will be the second tiger reserve in the state and the 41st in the country. It is being contemplated to protect, manage and maintain representative biodiversity of the Deccan plateau of Sahyadri mountain ranges along with ecological processes and conservation of wild gene pool with focus on the tiger. About 800 families in 42 tribal habitations around the project site have been dependent on the forest. Adivasis argue that they will face livelihood problem and lose their constitutional safeguards if they are evacuated from the forest. But forest department officials discount the fears. They say the tribals can continue to lead their life as they have been. There will be no relocation of any villager as no village will be affected by the project, says B Ramakrishna Rao, divisional forest officer (wildlife), Jannaram. The government will definitely provide alternative means to those who depend on forests for livelihood. Those who depend on collection of firewood will be given subsidised gas connection. Cattle grazing will continue in modules to be created for the purpose and small-scale industries will be set up to create employment for tribes, he assures.

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