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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tiger tourism: revised norms replace 10% tax with fixed amount

The monthly sums to be paid by the resorts will be decided based on which category they come under Neha Sethi The government has to submit the new norms to the Supreme Court, which is deciding a case on curbing tiger tourism in India, before the next hearing on 27 September. New Delhi: The government’s revised guidelines on eco-tourism propose allowing restricted tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves, according to two government officials privy to the new norms. The guidelines also recommend that resorts bordering India’s 41 tiger reserves pay fixed monthly sums to the government instead of the 10% eco tax proposed earlier. The government has to submit the new norms to the Supreme Court, which is deciding a case on curbing tiger tourism in India, before the next hearing on 27 September. The monthly sums to be paid by the resorts will be decided based on which category a resort comes under. The category will be determined on the basis of the area resorts occupy and the revenue they earn. “All the resorts will be divided into different slabs based on the basis of their revenue and their area among others and then they will pay a fixed amount from their revenue monthly,” one of the government officials said. The slabs will be finalized in a couple of days before the guidelines are submitted to the court, he said. The second official confirmed this. Both officials declined to be identified. The Supreme Court on 29 August gave the government about a month to re-draft guidelines for tourism in tiger reserves. Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati had sought more time to do this keeping in mind both tiger protection and sustainable tourism. The first government official cited above, however, said the guidelines were being re-drafted under pressure from lobbyists for the tiger tourism industry, which is worth at least Rs.1,000 crore annually, according to some experts. This lobby was unhappy with the Supreme Court’s interim decision on 24 July to ban any form of tourism in the core areas of the 41 tiger reserves to aid conservation efforts. The core area is a critical habitat for tigers and is identified on the basis of availability of water, prey and shelter. After the court’s 29 August direction, the government constituted a committee to revise the eco-tourism guidelines. The committee recommended that a fixed amount be collected monthly from resorts near tiger reserves, which will be used for the welfare of the local communities and aid conservation efforts. The previous guidelines recommending a 10% eco tax were on the same lines and suggested that the funds “collected should be earmarked to fund human-wildlife conflict management, conservation and local livelihood development.” The first government official said the new guidelines do not call for a ban on tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves. “Restricted tourism will be allowed in core areas. States will have the power to limit the...tourists going into core areas. However, they will not be allowed to exceed the current limit on tourists in every tiger reserve,” the official said. State-level and local area committees will be constituted to advise state governments on tourism limits in core areas, the official said. The mandate of these two committees was mentioned in the previous guidelines too. “The tourism activity in a reserve will depend on the potential of the tiger reserve,” the official added. There is also a plan to include local bodies such as gram sabhas and panchayats in conservation, and to “give them a bigger role in planning and decision making”, he said. States will design their own an eco-tourism plans for tiger reserves based on the Union government’s broad guidelines. “It will be on a case-to-case basis,” the official said. The revised guidelines, he said, are “specific for tiger reserves.” The previous norms were called “guidelines for eco-tourism in and around protected areas” and were not specific to tiger reserves. Activist Ajay Dubey had filed a special leave petition to stop “inviolate activities” including tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves in the Supreme Court in July 2011. He approached the apex court after his demand to ban tourism in the core areas was rejected by the Madhya Pradesh high court in January 2011. Environmentalists Shekar Dattari, a wildlife filmmaker, and Swathi Seshadri of Equations, a non-governmental organization that works on tourism, declined to comment on the redrafted guidelines because they are part of the committee that framed them. Conservationist Prerna Bindra said she couldn’t comment on the guidelines before they are made public.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Forest panel rejects Adani’s coal proposal

Published: Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012, 9:56 IST By Akshay Deshmane | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA A special committee of senior Maharashtra forest officials has rejected clearance to Adani Power Ltd’s proposal for setting up an open cast coal mine in Chandrapur’s Lohara block citing a threat to the survival of tiger and other wildlife in and around the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR). The block falls under the proposed eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of the tiger reserve. The minutes of this committee’s September 4 meeting perused by DNA show that there is sufficient evidence of tigers and other wildlife frequently using the area proposed to be mined for coal. The area is part of the “continuous wildlife corridor”. The special committee was set up to study the project proposal submitted by Adani Power Project for diversion of forest land for the coal block. “Any mining lease allowed around TATR would result in isolation of TATR from the rest of the central Indian landscape, which would jeopardize the very survival of tiger in TATR. The isolation of healthy population would lead to gradual deterioration of tiger reserve,” the committee observed and said,”Mining and other related activities will adversely affect wildlife movements outside protected area also.” The committee made these remarks after noting that TATR has connectivity to other protected areas (PAs) mainly through eastern and southern side which extends to Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It also pointed out that “the corridor on southern side is least fragmented and almost continuous.” The mining lease alloted to Adani Power Ltd falls in this corridor and would result in its fragmentation. The adverse impact is not limited to wild animals as “the project involves felling of a large number of trees and an untold number of shrubs, herbs and grasses causing incomprehensible destruction of floristic diversity of the the tract.” The four-member committee comprised chief conservator of forests, Chandrapur, BSK Reddy; TATR field director Virendra Tiwari; SP Thakre, general manager, Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra, North Chandrapur region, and P Kalyankumar, deputy conservator of forests, Chandrapur. Speaking to DNA, Virendra Tiwari said, “The adverse impact on wildlife continues after a mere removal of two compartments from the buffer zone of TATR. So, the proposal was rejected.” Chandrapur-based Wildlife activist Bandu Dhotre, who has been leading an agitation against mining in TATR, accessed the minutes of the meeting through a Right to Information (RTI) application. He said, “Now, the nodal officer of the forest department where the company submitted its proposal should be receptive to the observations and concerns raised by officials in the committee and accept the rejection. If forest officials consistently take such decisions which are in favour of wildlife and environment, there will be no need for people to come on the streets to agitate.” Adani Power Ltd did not reply to an email questionnaire sent by the correspondent on the issue. However, sources in the company said it is looking for an alternative block and wants to surrender the Lohara (west) extension block. “Since it is obvious that chances of getting forest clearance are slim, we don’t plan to pursue it further. We will seek its deallocation and also request the coal ministry for an alternative block as it is necessary to ensure fuel supply to our 3, 300 MW Tirodia power plant, “ said a company source.

Cheetah, lion can co-exist: MoEF

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times New Delhi, September 19, 2012 Advocating the re-introduction of cheetah in Kuno Sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh (MP) the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has rejected the claim that lions and the extinct cat cannot co-exist in the same territory. It has also sought vacation of May 8, 2012 Supreme Court (SC) stay to pave way for the implementation of its ambitious Rs. 91.56 crore project to reintroduce the extinct cheetah. The ministry's affidavit was filed pursuant to an SC order that raised apprehensions of cheetah's reintroduction especially in wake of the Centre's decision to move Gir lions from Gujarat to Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. It had even wondered if there was enough wild prey for cheetah to survive at Kuno. MoEF wants to import African cheetahs to Kuno. Filed through advocate Wasim Qadri, the affidavit assured import of cheetah to Kuno would not delay or affect the lion reintroduction there. It said the cheetah and lions have historical coexistence in the Kuno range and that the sanctuary had “adequate wild prey to support wild carnivores.” The ministry would not incur cost on procuring cheetahs since Namibia is donating the cats. It denied that the allocation made to Project Tiger had been reduced due to cheetah reintroduction program. Around 85% of the cheetah reintroduction budget is earmarked for protection and for relocation of three villages in Kuno sanctuary. According to the ministry a joint study by Wildlife Institute of India and Wildlife Trust of India had short listed MP as one of the three to reintroduce cheetah. Since Kuno's habitat status had improved owing to relocation of 24 villages, the ministry zeroed it in. There were 16 species of cats in India, including the cheetah. The latter is the only cat species, which has become extinct in the country, leading to its reintroduction.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Maharashtra's Tadoba reserve records 65 tigers

PTI | Sep 13, 2012, 12.08PM IST CHANDRAPUR: In an encouraging development, the tiger population in and around Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) has been shown to be going steady with 65 big cats being reported to be inhabiting this wildlife belt, forest officials have claimed. There are at least 65 tigers in the area, excluding the 20 odd cubs sighted in the area, which is quite encouraging, TATR chief conservator of forests and field director Veerendra Tiwari told PTI. The figure has been reached after the tiger monitoring exercise held in the reserve between April 1 and May 31, 2012, during which the movements of felines in various parts under TATR were monitored by as many as 94 camera traps, Tiwari said. "There are a minimum of 43 tigers in TATR while at least 20 carnivores are present in buffer area (around the core reserve), besides presence of two animals being reported in the adjoining FDCM (Forest development corporation of Maharashtra) area," he said. Spread over 625 sq kms of area, TATR is known for high density tiger population. On the accuracy of the census, Tiwari said even the figures on population census at the national level might not be accurate point-to-point, despite the fact that people have a specific address, locality and other details for contact. It is likely that some individuals might miss the census drive for some reasons or the other. "In case of a tiger, it is free to roam in any area of its choice and its territory ranges from 35 to 50 sq kms and hence, none can be sure to trap it in the cameras installed for the purpose until the animal sticks to its usual trail or track," he stressed. "All that I can claim is that there are a minimum of 65 tigers in the territory," the official said.

New panel to ready tiger tourism norms in 10 days

Nitin Sethi, TNN | Sep 13, 2012, 06.15AM IST NEW DELHI: Another panel has been set up by the ministry of environment and forests to decide eco-tourism guidelines in core areas and peripheral buffer zones of tiger reserves, and submit a report within 10 days. The panel's creation comes on the back of ministry's commitment to the Supreme Court that it would review its proposed norms on eco-tourism and get back to the SC with a final version by September 29. The new panel includes two wildlife scientists K Ullas Karanth and Wildlife Institute of India's Y V Jhala. Also, there are Brijendra Singh, considered close to the Gandhi family and a member of the National Board of Wildlife, Raghu Chundawat, a tiger expert and a resort-owner in Madhya Pradesh, Shekhar Dattari a wildlife filmmaker, Swathi Sheshadri of Equations, an NGO that works on tourism, Tushar Das of NGO Vasundhra, which works on tribal rights, and Arun Bhatnagar, a retired bureaucrat. In addition, the committee will have representatives from tribal affairs, tourism and panchayati raj ministries, besides chief wildlife wardens of MP, UP, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Assam. The member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority will serve as convener on the committee. The committee been tasked to "prepare a comprehensive set of guidelines for tiger conservation and tourism as provided in section 380 (c) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972". It has been asked to keep all existing laws in mind, including the Forest Rights Act, while drawing up the guidelines. While the apex court had put a complete but interim ban on tourism in the core of tiger reserves, the ministry had earlier recommended only partial tourism in the core run by communities. The ministry's suggestions had a rider. It sought to put stringent conditions including a cess on revenues of the resorts around tiger reserves to fund conservation. Several tour operators and resort owners had opposed both the court's interim order and government guidelines. Several states, too, had opposed a complete ban.

Now, tigers and leopards targeted by Maoists

Last Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012, 10:10 Tags: Tigers, Leopards, Maoists Patna: Pushed to a corner after "Operation Biswas", a police drive to contain Maoists, the rebels have now struck upon a new strategy to collect funds, police say. Rohtas Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj said the police drive had effectively ended the 'levy raj' of the Maoists, who could no longer get easy money by targeting road contractors, businessmen or traders. He said the Maoists in Rohtas and Kaimur districts were, however, fast emerging as poachers, smuggling the organs, skin and horns of wild animals to raise money. Among the animals targeted by the Maoists were leopards and tigers, police said. "Operation Biswas, a police drive against Maoists mainly in Rohtas and Kaimur, bordering Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, has turned out to be hugely successful. The Maoists have not recovered from the setback," Maharaj said. Rohtas and Kaimur are considered as Maoist-strongholds in the state. Police officials say that the Maoists appear to be working in cahoots with poachers. Maharaj said that some days days ago, police recovered arms and ammunition along with equipment used for poaching from Maoists arrested in Ulho and Gotahar villages. Maharaj said police had arrested Indu Paswan, kingpin of the Maoist poachers, Aug 7. Police also recovered a leopard skin and two sets of deer horns from Paswan. Four arrested Maoists informed the police that tiger and leopard skins were sold illegally in the market at a price ranging between Rs.2.5 lakh and Rs.5 lakh. Deer hide fetched Rs.50,000 to Rs.1 lakh. A set of horns sold for Rs.20,000 to Rs.30,000. A senior official said that after the Maoist-poachers were arrested, police in all districts were alerted to keep a watch on the poaching activities of Maoists. IANS

Pune's Yashda to launch tiger corridor study

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Sep 13, 2012, 04.18AM IST NAGPUR: The Yashwantrao Academy of Development Administration (YASHDA), Pune, will launch a study of tiger corridors in Vidarbha soon. This will be the first official study on corridors by the state forest department. On Wednesday, preliminary talks were held at Nagpur between Bharat Bhushan, professor for environmental planning and secretary of Yashada, and A K Saxena, acting chief wildlife warden and additional principal chief conservator of forests ( APCCF), wildlife, Nagpur (East). Bhushan confirmed having discussed preparation of a detailed project report (DPR) for the corridor study. Yashda, is the administrative training institute of the state government and meets the training needs of departments and rural and urban non-officials and stakeholders. It has been asked to do a corridor study and Rs 18 lakh have been allocated to it by Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management And Planning Authority ( CAMPA), Nagpur. Saxena told TOI Yashda will study tiger corridors between Pench-Nagzira-Navegaon-Bor-Tadoba and its linkages to Kanha and Indravati. "In the later stages, a corridor study of Melghat will also be done," he added. Saxena gave a fair idea of corridors and how they are affected by roads, power lines, railway tracks and canals. Yashda will do sample survey, data collection, movement of tigers, mapping etc and prepare a detailed project report (DPR). Help from NGOs like Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) will also be taken, he said. "We have asked Yashda to prepare a protocol as early as possible. What practices should be adopted in the corridors will also be suggested," Saxena said.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Include Goa in Tiger Reserve Complex: WII

Goa has five wildlife sanctuaries and a national park The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has suggested inclusion of Goa as a part of the Tiger Reserve complex complimenting the sanctuaries in Maharashtra and Karnataka, which would help the coastal state in conserving wild cats. The Dehradun-based Institute, which submitted its report on the status of wildlife in Goa to the state forest department has established that tiger occupancy in Goa is about 322 square kilometres. Goa can be potentially be home to a small breeding population of tigers which would be sustained by immigrants from Anshi-Dandeli wildlife sanctuary (in Karnataka) as well as Sahyadri wildlife sanctuary (in Maharashtra). The census conducted in 2010, and results of which were formally sent to Goa forest department few days back, notes that tiger presence is recorded in Mollem wildlife sanctuary and in forests of Ponda and Sanguem area. Goa has five wildlife sanctuaries and a national park. The report states that Goa forms part of the corridor connecting Anshi-Dandeli in Karnataka and Sahyadri tiger reserve in Maharashtra. "It would therefore benefit from being incorporated as part of tiger reserve complex," the WII said. State forest department officials said the proposal to declare Goa's forest areas as tiger reserve has been under consideration but final thought is not given to it. "There are so many intricacies attached to it once the Tiger Reserve is announced. We have several human settlements in wildlife sanctuaries. But the process to relocate them is far from over," a senior forest department official said. Environmentalists, however, claim that the state government's reluctance to declare wildlife sanctuaries especially Mhadei as a tiger reserve, is aimed at saving Goa's multi-crore iron ore mining industry.

Bandh observed in Gudalur to protest GOs pertaining to MTR

TNN | Sep 12, 2012, 05.51AM IST UDHAGAMANDALAM: A 'total bandh', called by all political parties was observed in the Gudalur constituency in Nilgiris on Tuesday, to protest the two government orders pertaining to the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR). More than 10 political parties including, DMK, AIADMK, MDMK, CPI, CPM and BJP participated in the 24-hour bandh across villages including Masinagudi, Naduvattam, Pykara and Gudalur. All tea plantation workers in the Gudalur area were in support of the protest. The bandh was convened by N Vasu, CPM Nilgiris district secretariat member. The town wore a deserted look as all shops were closed for the day and the roads were bare except for government buses plying with minimal passengers. "The protest was a success as over 1000 vehicles including autos and taxis did not operate. Even schools in Gudalur registered sparse attendance as students also supported the bandh," said Vasu. Vasu said that the protest was to make the government withdraw the two orders regarding the MTR. "Our main demands are the government should withdraw the two GOs pertaining to the MTR and resolve issues related to 'janmam' land under section 17 immediately," he added. According to him, as per GO 145/2007 the core area of the MTR had been marked as 221 sq km and about 100 sq km had been identified as buffer zone. However, in the GO no 200 dated August 13, 2012, the government has declared the notified area of 321 sq km as core area of the MTR and around 300 sq km surrounding the core area as buffer zone. "As per the latest GO over 2000 families dwelling in Mayar, Masinagudi and Vazhaithottam areas come under the core zone and they are compelled to vacate their land. How could one leave his traditional dwelling place because of a tiger reserve," questioned Vasu. He also said it was unnecessary to increase the core area as the tiger population in the MTR has not increased in recent years. Vasu alleged that the tiger reserve area has been expanded to avail more funds from the centre. "As per Supreme Court order, tourism activities are banned only in the core area, but forest officials prevent tourism activities in the buffer zones too. As per the Tamil Nadu Private Forest Protection act (TNPFP Act) many farmers in the Gudalur area are suffering as they could not cultivate their land or transfer the title deed. The government should intervene and bail out the distressed farmers," Vasu said. According to Diravidamani, Gudalur DMK MLA, the bandh was a total success. The 10 political parties have jointly sent a memorandum in this connection to Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. S Thirumeni, Gudalur DSP said the bandh went on smoothly as no untoward incidents were reported.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tribals to help resolve man-animal conflict

Published: Monday, Sep 10, 2012, 9:42 IST By Akshay Deshmane | Place: Mumbai With their centuries-long history of co-existence with leopards, tribals make ideal candidates to help come up with solutions for the human-animal conflict. Keeping this in mind, researchers working on the ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP’ project are enlisting the help of tribal residents to come up with awareness programmes for people living in the vicinity of the big cats. Rajesh Sanap, a member of the research team, hit upon the idea when Ankush Bhoir, a Keltipada resident from the Malhar-koli community, told him about the tribals’ historic practice of worship and continued co-existence with leopards deep inside the forests. “I thought of asking the tribals to talk to the residents living in societies around the habitat of the leopard through a presentation. The reason is that the society residents have a very different, — largely negative — approach about living with leopards, very much unlike the tribals who obviously been staying with the big cats for much longer, and thus, know them better,” said Sanap. He pointed out that the society residents always ask for the leopards to be trapped whenever the latter are seen in the vicinity of their buildings. “The Royal Palms residents, for instance, always complain that if they knew the problem would be so grave, they would never have bought houses there,” said Sanap. Sunetro Ghosal, an anthropologist, who is also a part of the team working on the project, believes the superior knowledge of the tribals concerning co-existence with wildlife and nature is an asset. Vidya Athreya, a veteran researcher of the human-leopard conflict, believes the existence of practices such as tiger worship are important from the conservation point of view.

PTR foresters hunt for missing jumbo

TNN | Sep 9, 2012, 12.00PM IST Daltonganj: Palamu Tiger Reserve (PTR) officials have launched a search to locate an injured adult male elephant which has gone missing at Betla National Park recently. As many as 40 trackers and seven forest guards along with officials of the Palamu Tiger Reserve (PTR) launched the search for the missing elephant on Friday. The search was conducted within a radius of two km from Baiga Pani at the national park where the elephant was last seen limping and struggling for life about a week earlier. A PTR conservator said the elephant was badly injured. He, however, said the cause of the injury was not known. D S Srivastava, a member of the steering committee of Project Elephant, said a rescue operation on such a massive scale had not been carried out at the park earlier. "The disappearance of the elephant has come as a huge surprise, since an elephant, particularly, with a leg injury, cannot to trudge a long distance. It should have been around the place where it was last seen a week before," Srivastava said. The wound was in a very bad condition with puss oozing from it. In such a situation, an elephant cannot move much and will prefer to be as close to a water source as possible. "Surprisingly, there is no trace of it in and around Baiga Pani, a site where there is enough water," said Srivastava. Though a wounded elephant normally prefers to sit, the grass surface in and around the area showed no sign of any elephant moving about in the vicinity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Man-eater suffered fracture, is critical

Published: Wednesday, Sep 5, 2012, 11:36 IST The man-eating tiger caught in Heggadadevanakote in Mysore district a week ago is critical and is undergoing treatment at the Mysore Zoo. “The rescued male tiger is having multiple infected wounds throughout the body, possibly caused by fight with other tigers. There are severe infected wounds with multiple pockets of pus accumulation in left forelimb and around the base of the tail. There are inflamed regions in the right shoulder and the right thigh.The tiger has suffered a fracture in the right forelimb with infection. There are multiple lacerations on the left nostril. The animal’s condition is weak and anaemic due to injury and parasitic infestation,” executive director of Mysore Zoo BP Ravi said. The vets treating the tiger said the blood sample analysis suggested that the tiger has also been suffering from liver disorders. Dr Prayag, one of the doctors treating the big cat, said lancing is done under aseptic conditions to clean pus-filled cavities. “The tiger is given medications, including antibiotics, iron supplements, mineral and vitamin,” he said. The report from the Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), Hyderabad, clarified that the tiger had consumed human flesh.

Valmik Thapar denies conflict of interest in eco-tourism norms

Nitin Sethi, TNN | Sep 5, 2012, 03.19AM IST NEW DELHI: Valmik Thapar has denied any conflict of interest in raising questions on eco-tourism guidelines as a member of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), which is headed by the Prime Minister. Thapar, whose nephew Jaisal Singh runs a resort next to the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, stated this while responding to a mandatory requirement that calls for declaration of any conflict of interest before a meeting of the NBWL. The Board will meet on Wednesday. The eco-tourism guidelines had proposed a cess on the revenues of resorts in proximity to tiger reserves for funding wildlife conservation and local development besides other strict regulations that several tour operators and resort owners opposed forcing the government to do a rethink on it before the Supreme Court. In an ongoing case, the apex court had imposed a complete interim ban on tourism in the core of tiger reserves and in the last hearing asked the government to come back with its finalized guidelines. Under the NBWL rules, every member is required to inform whether s/he or any of h/his family members have any interest in a proposal submitted for discussions before the apex wildlife body. The NBWL has 15 non-government members like wildlife experts, ecologists and NGOs, besides senior government representatives from various ministries. Several other members have stated their possible conflict of interests with the proposals of the agenda. Thapar, who has raised the eco-tourism policy issue besides some others, has claimed that he has only raised 'policy issues' and has not put any proposal that favour or go against any entity. Thapar did not respond to e-mailed query on the issue or take phone call or reply to text messages sent by TOI. Thapar, who has been a vocal critique of the Supreme Court's interim ban on tourism operations in the core of tiger reserves as well as the environment ministry's guidelines, has in his response to the PM had said that beside the 'policy issues' neither he nor his family members have any interest in the proposals to be discussed in Wednesday's meeting.

Heed the call of the wild for protection

2012 The Supreme Court’s directive to ban tourism in core tiger reserve areas for now, has triggered a national debate on conserving wildlife. Unfortunately, a lot of that discussion is based on half-information The recent order of the Supreme Court directing the notification of ‘buffer zones’ has brought the terms ‘core or critical tiger habitat’, ‘buffer zone’, ‘critical wildlife habitat’ and ‘eco-sensitive zone’ into sharp focus. With little clarity amongst the elected representatives, the media and even some officials, the prevailing state of affairs has created a fertile breeding ground for rumour-mongering and mis-information campaigns by vested interests to create uncertainty and fear of displacement amongst communities living around tiger reserves. Before the situation slides further, the implications of these and more specifically how or whether it affects local communities, must be clearly explained. In order to do this, it would be necessary to elaborate what each of these terms means. First, a tiger reserve includes a ‘core or critical tiger habitat’ and a ‘buffer zone’ around its immediate periphery. ‘Core or critical habitats’ of tiger reserves were constituted by issuing an overlapping notification to existing sanctuaries and/or ‘national parks’, with highly endangered tiger populations. This was done under the provisions of Section 38-V of the Wildlife Protection Act after an amendment in 2006. These have to be managed as ‘inviolate’ areas (meaning no incompatible human activity) to protect breeding populations of tigers and their prey. ‘Buffer zones’ on the other hand are immediately adjoining the core areas where a lesser degree of habitat protection is required. Even though several CTHs were notified, ‘buffer zones’ were not created. The Supreme Court is now insisting that States complete the notification process of ‘buffer zones’ in a time bound manner. Core and buffer zones: The law allows for resettlement of people living within core areas subject to certain conditions. The question of unilateral eviction does not arise, as all tribal forest-dwellers who were in occupation of land as on December 13, 2005, are eligible for and can opt for a voluntary resettlement package of Rs 10 lakh, including alternative land, housing and other amenities. ‘Buffer zones’ typically comprise reserved forests, protected forests, deemed forests and even unencumbered Government land contiguous with the ‘core area’. As against the ‘inviolate’ paradigm in ‘core areas’, ‘buffer zones’ are to be managed under a ‘co-existence’ paradigm. Therefore the bona fide rights of people within revenue enclosures of such forests will continue. So, the fear that the notification of ‘buffer zones’ will lead to displacement of people or curtailment of recorded rights is baseless. Can buffers include villages? Not really, but in some States, the forest departments are attempting to notify privately-owned agricultural landscapes including entire village limits without any forest areas, as ‘buffer zones’ and even imposing some controls. This may lead to serious conflicts because the law is abundantly clear that a ‘buffer zone’ is also an integral part of a tiger reserve. A plain reading of the following legal provisions illustrates why private lands and villages should not be included in the buffer zone. Section 38-V (2) clarifies that the provisions of Sections 18(2), 27(2), (3) & (4), 30, 32 and 33 (b) & (c) of the Wildlife Act apply to a tiger reserve as they apply to a sanctuary. These sections impose restrictions on littering the grounds of a ‘buffer zone’; causing or kindling a fire and use of injurious chemical substances. They also empower the chief wildlife warden to take measures for improvement of any habitat and enforce ecologically compatible land uses in the ‘buffer zones’. On the ground, this may well translate into preventing farmers from burning of land after cropping, prohibition on the use of pesticides and imposition of prescriptions on changing cropping patterns. It would, therefore, be prudent to leave out private lands and villages not encompassed within forests from the purview of ‘buffer zones’ even if this means the buffer does not fully wrap around the core. Critical tiger habitat vs Critical wildlife habitat: There is huge confusion on this issue as well. While a CTH is notified under the provisions of Section 38-V(4)(i) of the Wildlife Act, a CWH is constituted under Section 4(2) of the Forest Rights Act. While there are differences in the provisions under the two laws, there is one important similarity, which is that both CTH and CWH are to be constituted by notifying ‘national parks’ and sanctuaries that qualify to be treated as inviolate for the purpose of tiger/wildlife conservation based on scientific and objective criteria. Even in these areas, the preferred strategy rightly being adopted is voluntary and incentive-driven resettlement and not forcible eviction as is often portrayed by some activists and elected representatives to whip up public sentiment against notification of new areas. Eco-sensitive zone: In order to ensure the integrity of the landscape around sanctuaries and ‘national parks’ and create a transition zone from highly protected areas to other areas that require lesser degree of protection it is now mandatory to notify an ESZ under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act. This could extend up to 10km and even beyond if required. Activities in an ESZ are classified under three regimes: Prohibited, regulated and permissible. Mining and large hydel projects which destroy habitat integrity come under the prohibited regime. However, all ongoing agricultural and horticultural activity are in the permissible category and can continue unhindered. More importantly, acquisition of land or resettlement is not envisaged in these ESZs. Is it realistically possible then to have a large core fully surrounded by forested ‘buffer zones’ and an eco-sensitive zone? Most reserves in India have convoluted boundaries and hard edges abutting highways, agricultural lands and villages. The reality, therefore, is to recognise ‘core areas’ are not encircled fully by other forest lands which then gradually merge into farm lands and human dominated areas. In most landscapes this goal may remain a utopian dream. So, what’s the way forward? A practical strategy could be to first notify ‘buffer zones’ comprising only contiguous forests and un-encumbered Government land while simultaneously constituting ESZs of appropriate width around ‘core areas’ through a site-specific approach. This will synergistically operate to provide the necessary cushion to the ‘core areas’ to absorb shocks and prevent fragmentation of habitat. Another innovative strategy could be to encourage tourism companies to forge equitable profit-sharing agreements with local communities/panchayats to convert farm lands immediately adjacent to reserves into viable buffer areas over a five to 10-year period. This could be feasible around many reserves, particularly in the Western Ghats. While we continue to debate this important issue, there is an immediate and urgent need for elected representatives, officials and NGOs to reach out to local communities living in the periphery of tiger habitats and reassure them on why a ‘buffer zone’ or an ‘eco-sensitive zone’ will not lead to displacement or disruption of their bona fide agricultural activities. This will be crucial to minimise hostility and ensure success of this vital conservation strategy to secure wild landscapes — and not just small islands called tiger reserves. (The writer is a trustee of Wildlife First and has served on the National Board of Wildlife)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Damage to wildlife by infra projects to figure in NBWL meet

TNN | Sep 4, 2012, 01.21AM IST NAGPUR: The issue of linear intrusions, like networks of irrigation canals, power transmission lines, highways and railway lines, creating obstacles in smooth movement of tigers and wildlife in the corridors of Vidarbha will figure in the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday. Singh will chair the NBWL meeting at 6.30pm at 7 Race Course Road, Delhi. Around 45 members, including environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan and others, will attend. This meeting will be the first time Vidarbha gets representation in the form of Amravati-based wildlife conservation NGO Satpuda Foundation (SF). Nagpur is already called the 'tiger capital of the world', as it is surrounded by six tiger reserves within a radius of 250-300km. Kishor Rithe, president of SF and NBWL member, has already submitted the agenda items for the meeting. Rithe said he will raise issue of linear intrusion which causes problems for wildlife across Central India. Rithe said that though Central India in general and Vidarbha in particular play host to tiger habitats, farmers and villages faces huge economic losses due to unplanned development that forces wildlife out of its habitat. The most serious issue is implementation of linear projects like irrigation canal network, power transmission lines, highways and railway lines, which create obstacles in the smooth movement of wildlife in the corridors. "As a result, large number of wild animals get killed in accidents. Obstruction to wildlife movement by these projects also leads to crop depredation by wild animals, besides loss of human life and cattle due to attacks by carnivores," said Rithe. The NBWL member added that while planning and implementing any development or infrastructure project, the agencies need to give serious thought to mitigation measures. "Right now, there is hardly any special consideration in planning process for projects coming up in wildlife habitats or any financial allocation by agencies to implement mitigation measures. I will demand that the PM should address this issue," said Rithe.

Hartal in Valparai to press for exemption from buffer zone of tiger reserve

TNN | Sep 4, 2012, 03.55AM IST COIMBATORE: The dawn-to-dusk hartal called by different trade unions led by INTUC and HMS and supported by the trading community and tourism operators in Valparai on Monday was total. The hartal was observed to press for the exemption of the tea country from both core and buffer areas of Anamalai Tiger Reserve. Though the ruling AIADMK and its affiliated trade unions along with left parties kept away from the protest, over 20,000 plantation workers participated, paralyzing the functioning of tea estates. All shops in town remained closed while home stay facilities also downed their shutters. Autos and taxis also kept off the roads. The protest was organized in the background of Tamil Nadu's submission of an affidavit in the Supreme Court earmarking both buffer and core areas of tiger reserves. Valparai is out of the core area but workers are demanding exclusion from the buffer areas as well. Municipal chair person Sathyavanimuthu led a public meeting at Anna Thidal listing out the possible adverse effects of declaring Valapari a buffer zone. Meanwhile, tourist cottage owners and merchants in the plantation town will implead in the case being heard in the Supreme Court with regard to allowing tourism in tiger reserves. Representatives of the businesses have already left for New Delhi. They have also commissioned senior lawyers there to fight their case. Valparai is home to more than 40 home-stay businesses and 600 traders and thus, along with trade unions, they want to keep the town free from restrictions.. According to them, Valparai is the only municipality in the entire country to come under a tiger reserve, be it core area or buffer zone. What irks the tourism and commercial operators in the hill station is the lack of clarity on what kind of tourism would be permitted in a buffer zone. As per the 2001 census, Valparai has an urban population of 94,962 people and their normal life would be badly affected even if the whole municipality and adjoining tea estates are treated as buffer zones, according to the tourism industry. Before it became the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, the National Park had a 126-sq-km core area and 832 sq km buffer zone. Both the core area and the buffer zone had exempted Valparai municipality and surroundings. "The issue of Valparai is very peculiar. Other areas in the country which stand close to tiger reserves are not urban like Valparai. We have been here for generations and being in the buffer zone would mean serious trouble," says MJP Shaji from Merchants Association.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tigers move out of Corbett park boundary

Reported by Tania Saili Bakshi, Edited by Amit Chaturvedi | Updated: September 03, Dehradun: The Corbett Tiger Reserve has one of the densest tiger populations in the country. But now with the number of big cats on the rise, the new worry for the forest department is that many tigers are going beyond the park boundaries in search of fresh territory. This brings them in conflict with people and also makes them easy targets for poachers. "With the population of tigers going up; their area of movement has decreased due to which they are moving away from the Corbett Tiger Reserve in search of water, food and rising temperature as well," said SS Sharma, the Chief Wildlife Warden. Most Recent Nokia reportedly testing Lumia 610 successor 'Glory' with 4-inch display Could cancellation of coal licences help Parliament get back to work? Also See 2:02 Tigers move out of Corbett park boundary 1:56 Tigers at Corbett poisoned or beaten to death Uttarakhand has shown a big jump in tiger numbers - from 178 in 2008 to 235 - in the latest census. Now, efforts are being made to provide protection to tigers in the adjoining Lansdowne and Ramnagar forest divisions. "Better management in parks is required. Basic facilities like food and water needs to made available," said Anand Singh Negi, a tiger expert. While rising number of tigers has brought good news for Uttarakhand, limited tiger territory and shrinking habitat has seen a rise in tigers moving to the upper reaches in the Corbett Tiger Reserve. And if this trend continues, man and animal conflict will be inevitable - something the forest department has to think off before it's too late.

Skin of adult RBT skin seized, four arrested in Odisha

PTI | 11:09 AM,Sep 03,2012 Baripada (Odisha), Sept 3 (PTI) In what could be termed as the first of its kind incident in Similipal Tiger Reserve area, forest personnel stumbled upon a huge skin of a Royal Bengal Tiger (RBT) and arrested four persons. On a tip off, the forest personnel raided a private lodging here last night and seized the about eight feet long and three feet wide skin which was about to be sold out for Rs 80,000, Bijay Kumar Panda, DFO, Baripada said. Earlier, a forest personnel had posed himself as a middleman and bargained with the traders to which they had agreed. The arrested traders, identified as Niranjan Mohanto, Chandrakant Sahu, Narendra Beshra and Dharanidhar Patra, belonged to Khunta area under the foothills of Similipal. They confessed that the RBT aged about 20 years was shot dead by poachers a year ago near Phulbadia under Barahakamuda range in core area of Similipal Project Tiger. There were gun shot marks at two or three places on the skin. "In all other earlier incidents, we had seized the skin of Panthers. But, for the first time today, we seized the skin of a RBT", Panda said adding based on the information provided by the traders efforts are being made to nab the poachers. PTI COR SKN RG SK

Satpuda to take up its works with PM

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Sep 2, 2012, 07.36PM IST NAGPUR: The Satpuda Foundation (SF), a NGO working for tiger conservation in Central India, has decided to take up its various works with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) meeting slated for September 5. ""This is for the first time Vidarbha has got an opportunity to represent country's highest decision-making body on wildlife and forest issues, under the chairmanship of Prime Ministers. It could be possible due to Satpuda Foundation's pathbreaking work in the region,"" remarked Kishor Rithe, president of Satpuda and also NBWL member. Though the routine life in most of the parts of Vidarbha was disrupted due to heavy rains, Satpuda Foundation staff was still moving in the field perceiving its task of tiger conservation as usual. Tribal kids from Sillari and Kadbikheda villages in the buffer of Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) participated in 'seed sowing' drive during the monsoon. Around 35 students participated in the activity and sowed 50 seeds of fruit trees. Satpuda provided an opportunity to these kids by arranging a massive plantation programme in buffer villages. Conservation officer Anoop Awasthi, Bandu Uikey and Dilip Lanjewar played a vital role. Rithe said in view of the new government policy to hand over various activities to eco-development committees (EDCs), Satpuda Foundation is assisting buffer villages like Tuiyapaar, Wanera, Pipariya, Usaripar, Sawara and Wagholi around Pench to prepare village micro-plans. At Wanera the social survey was conducted after discussing village micro plans and eco-development and joint forest management (JFM) programme. At Narhar, the meeting was held with village EDC members about giving up use of firewood and grazing in the forests. Similar meetings were conducted in Kolitmara, Wagholi, Pipariya and Usripar. Rithe informed the Foundation teams arranged 'shramdaan' programmes at Salai and Pipariya. The NGO's staff voluntarily joined forest department officials in anti-poaching drives around Pench despite rains. Meanwhile, Satpuda has started free health check-up camps for remote villages. In four medical camps, 144 patients from Khapa, Wagholi, Kirangisarra and Ghoti were treated. Besides, mobile health units were started at Kirangisara and Ghoti villages. The NGO has started a special education van for the past two years. Regular film shows on wildlife are organised for villagers. The SF also arranged environment education programmes in 12 schools in Pench buffer villages like Narhar, Kolitmara, Ghatpendhari, Salai, Piparia, Khapa, Kadbikheda, Usaripar, Sillari, Sawara,Phulzari and Ghoti. ""We have also provided employment to three youths Kabirdas Gajbhiye and Mukunda Lanjewar, both from Ghoti and Keshav Gajbhiye from Pipariya.

Tourism in core areas ban will up poaching, fears forest minister

Bagish K Jha, TNN | Sep 2, 2012, 12.38PM IST INDORE: Tourism acts as shield for wild animals. Tigers and other wild animals are safe only because of tourism. "As such, a complete ban on tourism in core areas of reserve forests will increase poaching," fears Madhya Pradesh forest minister Sartaj Singh. The minister was in the city to inaugurate a girl's hostel of forest department for its employee's kids, on Saturday. Singh said that his ministry has taken several measures against poaching and it was bearing good results of late. "Presence of tourist and forest department officials helps keep a day-to-day watch on the number of tigers and wild animals and their movements. Their absence, however, will encourage poachers. It will not be possible to station a forest guard in every corner of the forest," Singh said. Singh said that as of now, the matter pertaining to ban on tourism in core areas of reserve forests is with the Supreme Court and the apex court has directed the union government to come up with new guidelines for tourism in the core areas. "We have filed our reply on August 29 and next hearing is on September 27 when the court will decide its further course of action. We have submitted our suggestions to the committee of union government which will formulate the new guidelines of tourism in core areas," he said. He said that forests and reserve forests in MP are in better shape and the number of tigers is increasing. "Buffer zones of reserve forests across the state have been notified. The buffer zone notification of Panna National Park has been done on August 13 as per the guidelines of the court," he said. Taking a dig at Gujarat government that had denied to shift a lion of Gir alleging rampant poaching in Madhya Pradesh, Singh said that Gujarat government was raising the issue of poaching as it did not want MP to have the lion. "We have contented that for survival of the species, it would be good to have their presence in different geographical areas," he said. Tiger tourism is one of the main attractions of tourism in MP and is one of the major sources of revenue generation for Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPSTDC) that owns several hotels and guest houses in and around the forest areas. It also provides direct and indirect employment to a large number of people across the state.