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Monday, June 18, 2012

Warning roar for shabby tiger turf

A.S.R.P. MUKESH Ranchi, June 17: A three-member team of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is expected to arrive in Jharkhand in July second week to take stock of Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) with the threat to stop central funds if the state did not get its act together to save the big cats. State forest department sources said that the NTCA was “very upset” over the dismal state of tiger conservation in Jharkhand (see chart). It might plug central funds — Rs 1 crore was earmarked in the last fiscal year — to punish the state’s poor performance. The PTR is one of India’s original nine tiger reserves. It has a core area of 414sqkm and a buffer zone of 600sqkm. Villages on the buffer and periphery exceed 100. Over the years, the number of tigers has dwindled to between six and 10, though “sightings” make occasional headlines. Worryingly, the presence of Naxalites and poachers makes more credible news. A senior forest official, who visited New Delhi earlier this month along with couple of other officials from the state wildlife division for nationwide meeting on tiger conservation measures, said Jharkhand had become “a joke” among other states. “Every state barring Jharkhand has more or less formulated a Tiger Conservation Plan in the past two-three years, details of which were discussed during the Delhi meeting. Representatives from Jharkhand had nothing to share, which irked NTCA officials,” he said. A high-level committee is expected to meet chief minister Arjun Munda and forest minister Sudesh Mahto to find out why not much headway was made in PTR for years. Though chief wildlife warden A.K. Malhotra and chief conservator of forests A.K. Gupta couldn’t be reached for comments, senior member of state steering committee (tiger conservation) D.S. Srivastava confirmed the upcoming visit and dwelt on its implications. “The exact date is not yet known. But during my meeting with NTCA member secretary Rajesh Gopal, I was told the visit would be around the second week of July. They also dropped hints about stopping funds this time.” Srivastava is also involved in tiger conservation plans for Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and so is in a position to compare. “These three states have almost prepared holistic plans. They are again holding a meeting with NTCA on June 22 to discuss the course of action. People make fun of Jharkhand, saying the state has not chalked any plan despite so much time,” said Srivastava. According to him, NTCA has two major gripes where the PTR is concerned. First, despite repeated directives Jharkhand has not formed a tiger conservation foundation. Second, its core and buffer areas are not declared under Section 23 of NTCA’s tiger reserve guidelines, which makes it mandatory to relocate human population from core areas. “Till these are done, conservation plans can’t start. Plus, no one in the department is serious,” he claimed. Premjit Anand, divisional forest official of PTR (core), said they had not received official intimation on the visit. “I know that the NTCA has written to headquarters about the foundation and other pending activities of the PTR,” he said.

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