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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Glaring shortcomings noticed in tiger sanctuaries

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN Mar 30, 2012, 01.42AM IST NAGPUR: Under criticism for its passive role post-inauguration, regional office of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in Nagpur is now steadily coming up. Initially set up to look after 15 tiger reserves in four states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, the Nagpur office is at present handling more than 50% tiger reserves in the country. "Of the 41 tiger reserves in India, Nagpur is looking after 25 in 10 states," said Ravikiran Govekar, assistant inspector general (AIG). As there is no official posted in Guwahati regional office yet, the 10 tiger reserves in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam are also being looked after by city office. Nagpur NTCA office was opened by then union environment minister Jairam Ramesh and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on April 27, 2011. The regional offices in Guwahati and Bengaluru were also opened during the same time. While opening office at Nagpur, Ramesh had promised that an inspector general (IG) would be in place along with ministerial staff of eight persons in three months but the staff has still not been appointed. "Some applications for IG's post have been received and screening process is on," said Govekar. However, he adds, lack of staff doesn't mean NTCA office here is dormant. Since July 2011, of the 25 reserves, Govekar has visited 17 and submitted evaluation reports to NTCA at Delhi. "It's very hectic and I'm out on official tours for almost 27 days in a month," says Govekar. As per norms, an AIG is required to make at least three supervisory visits in a year to each tiger reserve. The visits are basically to look into protection initiatives, surveillance, rate of wildlife crime, status of prey and predators, implementation of centrally sponsored scheme (CSS), staff position, relocation of villages, and monitor annual plan of operations (APO). Strategically, all problem reserves like Sahyadri in Maharashtra, Udanti and Indravati in Chhattisgarh and Similipal in Odisha were taken up. The visits have led to discovery of an array of good and bad management practices. During a visit to Sahyadri in October-November last, bauxite mining was observed just 800 metres from the reserve's boundary. There were two-wheelers moving inside the reserve. NTCA higher-ups have taken a serious note of these violations. Tiger reserve visits have no more remained joy tours and from the feedback of Nagpur office, NTCA at Delhi has been writing to chief wildlife wardens of the states about shortcomings and need to rectify them.

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