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Friday, February 3, 2012

Kawal awaits tiger reserve tag

TNN | Feb 3, 2012, 02.29AM IST HYDERABAD: More than four months have passed since the Centre gave its nod to the Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary in Adilabad district but the project is still waiting on the 'tiger reserve' tag. And while authorities have long cited the crisis in tribal affairs as the primary reason behind the delay, wildlife experts suggest that the story is something else. According to them it is an uninterested forest department and an equally complacent state government, which is dithering on the proposal that needs to be cleared to give Kawal the distinction of being the 42nd tiger reserve in the country. The wait, experts say, is fast becoming a cause for concern as Kawal has seen a sharp rise in anti-social activities in the last five months. Apart from hundreds of trees being felled everyday by the timber mafia, attacks by poachers, too, is becoming more frequent, according to experts. That apart, there has also been a rise in the tiger population in the area (there have been seven sightings of late), which, according to experts, calls for immediate attention. "This is a very important tiger zone and, if protected well, can open up a continuous corridor with central India, especially Tadoba (100km away), thereby helping in tiger conservation efforts," said Imran Siddiqui, member of the advisory board for Kawal and a local wildlife activist. However, experts maintain that better security for the sanctuary would only be sanctioned after it has bagged the 'tiger reserve' tag. Experts said that that notification will lead to more funds through the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and help Kawal grow as a tiger habitat. "Poaching will come down drastically. Fewer trees felled would mean an improving herbivorous population leading to better tiger breeding. So, it is very important that it be given the tag soon," reiterated Rajeev Mathew, a wildlife expert. While Mathew agrees that there are tribal issues that need to be addressed before the initiation of any such proposal, he believes that it is not something that cannot be resolved in a few months. However, considering how little the progress has been so far in government offices, activists feel that the plan might well hit a dead end. Their fears are perhaps rooted in the indifference amongst senior forest officials who seem least interested in the Kawal story. In fact, when contacted, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF- head of the forest force), Hitesh Malhotra said that branding the wildlife sanctuary as a tiger reserve would do it little good. He argued that the department was already doing all it could to protect Kawal and that any more it could not do. "We have enough mobile guards and camps in the sanctuary area. Even without it being a tiger reserve, we are giving it maximum protection. The tag will change nothing," Malhotra said, dismissing the hoopla around the tiger reserve notification. The ground reality, though, is very different according to locals. Not only has the area been given only four base camps - as against the 16 promised last year - there is also a good portion of the sanctuary that is lying in neglect. "More than one-third of the core Kawal area falls under Nirmal (also in Adilabad district), which does not have a regular forest officer to monitor it. Once declared a reserve, this will get corrected and the entire area will come under the unified command of a forest conservator," a local said.

Project Tiger: Bhadra, Kudremukh dropped

Bangalore, Feb 2, 2012, DHNS: The State government has dropped a proposal to expand the Bhadra Tiger Reserve as well as include Kudremukh National Park under Project Tiger after local people opposed it, Law Minister Suresh Kumar told the Assembly on Thursday. Replying to the issue raised by Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah, the minister said the government shelved the plan in the interest of tribals and other forest dwellers. The State government had proposed to expand the area of Bhadra tiger reserve from the existing 500.16 sq km to 848.62 sq km. Besides, 600 sq km of Kudremukh Park was proposed to be brought under Project Tiger. In the wake of strong protests from people in Chikmagalur district, the decision to drop the proposal has been notified, the minister said. Suresh Kumar said the re-classification of protected areas under Bannerghatta National Park, Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary, Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary will continue as planned. Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda had recently announced that he had written to the Centre to drop expansion plan of Project Tiger in the contiguous Bhadra reserve. The move comes ahead of the Udupi-Chikmagalur Lok Sabha by-poll as the Bhadra reserve is in the constituency. Earlier, legislators, especially from the Malnad region, cutting across party lines, said there was stiff opposition to the proposal. “There is no public consultation. People are worried about their livelihood”, Sringeri MLA D N Jeevaraj said. Siddaramaiah said people displaced by the Bhadra reservoir had been rehabilitated. “They will be displaced again if Project Tiger is expanded across the region,” he said.