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Monday, April 16, 2012

Highways through Indian tiger reserves will destroy habitat

Last Updated: Monday, April 16, 2012, 12:04 0 New Delhi: As India strives hard to protect its big cats, a study in a tiger reserve has found that busy highways and excessive road expansion will destroy wildlife populations and their habitats in the long term, as large mammals avoid such areas. The study, a copy of which is available with IANS, comes at a time when there are just 1,706 tigers left in the country and a debate is on over according the green nod to construction of highways through various tiger reserves. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Centre for Wildlife Studies carried out a preliminary study examining the impact of vehicular traffic on the usage of road edges by large mammals -- elephants, chital (spotted deer), tiger, leopard, gaur (Indian bison) and wild pigs -- along a highway passing through Nagarahole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka. The team of experts estimated large mammal encounter rates using remotely triggered camera traps on two consecutive sections -- one closed to vehicular traffic and the other open to vehicles only during daytime -- of the Mysore-Mananthavadi Highway, passing through the tiger reserve. "We observed lower encounter rates of chital, gaur and elephants at camera traps in the highway segment with higher vehicular traffic density, suggesting that these species avoided busy highways," said Sanjay Gubbi of WCS-India programme. In all, a total of 681 animal trails intersected the highway. "The density of animal trails along the highway closed to traffic was over 40 percent higher than the one open to vehicular movement, suggesting a greater use of road edges by animals in the nearly vehicle-free segment," said Gubbi. For species such as the wild pig, tiger and leopard, the photo-capture rates were zero-inflated and a more sustained monitoring overtime may enable a better assessment of how these species respond to vehicular traffic along highways. The study pointed out that while there are legally mandated assessments of the potential ecological impacts of such infrastructure projects prior to implementation, rarely are there post-implementation assessments of their real ecological impacts. "Despite the fact that roads could affect numerous endangered wildlife species, there have been virtually no studies assessing their impacts, especially on large-bodied animals. As a result, the impact of roads and vehicular traffic on larger endangered species remains poorly understood in India," the study said. Based on our findings, the study emphasises the importance of continued ecological impact assessments of development projects to identify and mitigate unforeseen impacts. "Further, an approach to development planning that integrates conservation concerns, especially where development projects coincide with ecologically critical areas, is urgently needed in India," it said. The study said sustaining India's growth story is possible only if ecological safeguards, such as environment impact assessment, are not forsaken in the pursuit of economic growth and human development. "If India is serious about achieving this balance, there is no escape but to invest in a more holistic process of development planning that includes - rather than ignores - the conservation of its priceless natural heritage," it added. IANS

Tadoba locals get share in tourism money

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Apr 16, 2012, 03.41AM IST NAGPUR: Two years ago, when the buffer zone to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) was to be notified, villagers in the area opposed the move. They thought the decision would put restrictions on them. Instead, tigers are bringing money for these very villages in the buffer zone of TATR. The TATR has recently released Rs 27 lakh to 53 villages in the periphery of TATR. Besides, Rs 1.30 crore has also been released under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) for various developmental works. "The money was collected by us from tourism receipts in the last two years and deposited in the tiger conservation foundation (TCF)," said V K Sinha, chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director of TATR. "This is one of the reasons why we increased gate fee to Rs 500," he added. This is for the first time that buffer villages have got their share in tourism money. The amount was deposited in the bank accounts of eco-development committees (EDCs), joint forest management committees (JFMCs) and forest protection committees (FPCs). Of the 53 villages, 16 have EDCs while others have JFMC and FPCs. "We have fulfilled our promise made last year to the villagers," said Sinha. It is learnt that business majors BILT and Western Coalfields Limited (WCL) have also offered help to villages in buffer. Notifying buffer zones around tiger reserves has become mandatory under the tiger conservation plan (TCP) after amendments in Section 38V of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) on September 4, 2006. The TCP aims at protection of tiger reserve and providing site specific habitat inputs for a viable population of tigers, co-predators and prey animals. The villages include Bhagwanpur in Mul where Botezari and part of Kolsa villages inside TATR have been resettled. "There was a demand for solar lights in Bhagwanpur. The amount will be utilised for that," said Sinha. Most of the amount will be spent on procuring cooking gas as these villages put huge biotic pressure on forests for firewood. These villages are in the process of finalizing their micro plans after which more aid is expected. An amount of Rs 3.50 lakh has also been granted under the centrally sponsored scheme (CSS) to repair gobar gas units in villages around Tadoba. These units were non-functional for years together for want of spare parts. "It's not a big amount but symbolic to send a message that buffer zone is bringing money. If not much, Rs 51,000 can help at least 17 villagers procure cooking gas. We've asked the committees not to make any discrimination while preparing list of beneficiaries. More money from other government sources will flow in," Sinha told TOI. Bandu Dhotre, founder of wildlife protection NGO Eco-Pro, hailed the move. "It will ensure integrity of TATR and promote co-existence between wildlife and human activity," Dhotre said.

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.

National Tiger Conservation Authority adopts refined tiger estimation protocols

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Apr 16, 2012, 03.38AM IST NAGPUR: Starting today the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) adopted new refined protocols for intensive monitoring of tiger source populations under the phase IV exercise of national tiger estimation. K Ullas Karanth, director, Wildlife Conservation Society-India, and Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), Bangalore, and his colleagues were working with NTCA and Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, in a supportive technical role, in developing these protocols since 2009. "When implemented fully, these refinements will put India's tiger monitoring programme well ahead of any other monitoring programme for big cats, anywhere in the world," Karanth said. Karnataka and Maharashtra are already implementing the new protocols. In this regard, the spirit of innovation was also shown by Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of NTCA, and PR Sinha, director of WII, in the complex process of balancing science, involved in introducing these refinements, the conservation zoologist said. Karanth said that the new protocols will enable state forest departments to formally collaborate with qualified scientists, and enable them to move up a ladder of technical progress, from estimating minimum number of tigers to robust estimates of population density, change in number over time, survival and other crucial parameters. Relevant parts of the protocol specify strict standards for conduct of camera trap and fecal DNA surveys of important source populations of tigers as well as conduct of line transect surveys of prey. These protocols will work in tandem with a national tiger photographic data base repository to be developed and maintained at NTCA. The collaborative process envisaged in the monitoring process is also expected to bring wider participation of qualified scientists as well as greater transparency and rigour to the tasks of data collection and analyses. The tiger reserves in Maharashtra are following the new protocol. AK Mishra, chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director of Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR), said the protocol was discussed between NTCA and field directors of reserves in a series of meetings since August 2011. The new protocol has two major procedures viz. transect walking over transects of two-three km each with a view to assess prey densities but actual number of prey animals is not the objective. And secondly, to estimate the minimum number of tigers by using camera traps. "In MTR transect process was completed in February. The camera traps have been put in the field since March 10, 2012. The underlying objective is to get all the possible photos of tigers from high probability areas of the reserve. At the end all these photos will be analysed to assess minimum number of tigers and assign a name to each tiger," said Mishra.

Demand for Khandesh tiger reserve heats up

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Apr 16, 2012, 02.57AM IST NAGPUR: With the state government notifying three new sanctuaries adjoining Navegaon, Nagzira and Bor recently, a demand for Khandesh tiger reserve in Jalgaon has cropped up by combining Yawal wildlife sanctuary and adjoining Vadoda forest range, which is brimming with tigers. On March 22, a tiger was found in a camera trap in Vadoda range of Jalgaon division. On September 7, TOI had reported how tigers have come back in Jalgaon district after a long gap. This forest enclave provides a habitat to several endangered species like leopards, sloth bear, blackbucks and other herbivores. Records show that a tigress delivered 3 cubs on January 2001 in Dolarkheda. In December 2007, two more cubs and a tigress was reportedly spotted. In 2011, pugmarks of tiger cubs were found. "The Vadoda range lies under the direct drainage of Hatnur dam on Tapi river. Hatnur's backwaters have turned into a good habitat with dense forests, natural vegetation and sufficient water. Tigers inhabit here as this area is well protected and undistributed," said Rajendra Nannaware, convenor of Satpuda Bachao Kriti Samiti, which is pushing for the Khandesh tiger reserve. He added, tigers move from Wan-Ambabarwa-Yawal towards Western Ghats. Nannaware said the samiti's future action plan includes conducting a ground level survey in Vadoda and Yawal sanctuary and publish a white paper on tiger habitat in the region. "We also plan to organise a state level tiger conference from October 24 to 26 in Jalgaon," he said. The camera trap picture was also shared with National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). S P Yadav, deputy inspector general (DIG), NTCA, has said that he will take up the issue with state authorities. Satpuda ranges in Khandesh are known for its tall mountains and rich bio-diversity. The topology is ideal for wildlife, with rare species of flora and fauna nestling here. Yawal is 177.50 sq km while Vadoda range is 145 sq km. Khandesh is a low rainfall area and much of the district's water comes from forests of Satpuda ranges to the north. Yawal and its adjoining forests are sources to vital rivers, the largest being Sukkin and Aner, on which dams have been constructed in Jalgaon and Dhulia districts respectively. Water conservation is also key issue in Satpuda ranges. The samiti is a network of environmental organisations in Khandesh. With the initiative of School of Environment and Khandesh Nature Conservation Society (KNCS), this network is handling various environmental issues of the region. "We are working on impact of Forest Right Act (FRA) on forest and tiger conservation in Satpuda. We are claiming presence of tigers in the region for past several years, but forest authorities believed it only after sightings," said Nannaware. Some Facts Of The Matter - There were 14 cattle kills by tigers in Yawal between 1994-95 and 2003-04. Yawal is under threat from encroachments - On August 26, 2011, DR Patil, range forest officer (RFO), Vadoda, accepted presence of tigress with cubs in his area and demanded additional funds for conservation - Jalgaon district collector Dnyaneshwar Rajurkar formally announced presence of tigers in Vadoda on July 25, 2011 - Between March 18, 2011, movement of tiger was found in Savkheda near Pal forest in Raver taluka - On December 5, 2010 movement of two tigers was found near Bahipur in Nandurbar district. The spot is between Aner and Toranmal sanctuary of Khandesh

'I want legal status for tiger capital'

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Apr 16, 2012, 03.01AM IST NAGPUR: Seven-time Congress MP Vilas Muttemwar seems to be very passionate about tigers. He is perhaps the only politician who has volunteered to talk about forests and tigers and their conservation while promoting tourism. With tigers beaming in Vidarbha, TOI had launched the 'Waghpur' campaign in 2011 which led to former union minister for environment & forests Jairam Ramesh declaring Nagpur as the 'Gateway to tiger country'. However, Muttemwar has gone a step ahead and proposed Nagpur as the 'Tiger Capital of the World'. He has even written to prime minister Manmohan Singh, MoEF Jayanthi Natarajan and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. He also raised the issue in Lok Sabha. TOI talked to Muttemwar on his plans and ideas on the issue. Excerpts from an interview... Q. What is your opinion about 'Waghpur' and the idea behind declaring Nagpur as the 'Tiger capital of the world'? A. Waghpur was TOI's campaign aimed at tiger tourism and conservation, but let me tell you I was the first to raise the issue with Jairam Ramesh on August 3, 2009. The basic idea is Nagpur, with its tiger population of 300-odd tigers and sanctuaries within 270km radius, can be put at an international level. Half of this tiger population is in Vidarbha. These areas are frequented by tourists because of better connectivity from Nagpur. On an average, 8 million foreign tourists visit India annually. If we could divert even one-tenth of them here, Vidarbha's economy could get a big boost. Q. Do you have any concrete proposal on the world capital status? A. Vidarbha's rich biodiversity, wildlife and many historical places themselves are its big strengths. Adventure tourism also has big scope. The state has to play a proactive role if it really wants to take the tiger capital idea forward. It will have to do strong marketing at the global level, develop better roads and accommodation facilities for visitors. I had written to union tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay in March to include Vidarbha in 'Incredible India'. The campaign shows Ganga, Banaras etc but misses on Vidarbha's tourism potential. I will once again push for it. It is true that tourism is confined to Ajanta and Ellora and Vidarbha is neglected but again the state should target foreigners, many of whom come scouting for tigers. I'm sorry to state that the region's coal potential is exploited but not tourism. Just as Taj Mahal is being explored, tiger tourism should also be promoted here. Q. There is a suggestion to incorporate small steps like announcements at airport, railway station and setting up of a separate Vidarbha Tourism Development Corporation (VTDC) to promote the tiger capital? A. I feel these are small steps that won't make any big difference. Nagpur as the tiger capital will flourish only when it gets a legal sanctity. The aim of promoting the tiger capital is not only tourism but also to make it a safe haven for tigers. There should be the conservation angle to tourism. It needs to be supplemented by protecting corridors, steps like relocation of villages in reserves for which I've sought Rs 100 crore in one go. Funds in piecemeal will delay the process. Another issue is poaching which needs to be tackled are by setting up a special task force for reserves as well as outside. In the last five months, 7 tigers died in Maharashtra, which is alarming. Many resorts are coming up near Tadoba and are blocking the corridor. These resorts should be 10km away from the reserve. Q. Do you think we should look beyond sanctuaries and tiger reserves to promote tourism? A. Yes. There is a point. Tourism in parks like Tadoba and Nagzira have reached a flash point. It's high time areas like Bor, Mansingdeo, Tipeshwar and Melghat and buffer areas around protected areas (PAs) are promoted. The three new sanctuaries around Bor, Nagzira and Navegaon should be developed soon. Besides, Umred-Karangla where there are tigers should be expedited as sanctuary to ease pressure on Tadoba. Our PA network in Vidarbha may stretch up to 4,000 sq km but the area outside these PAs may be five times more to be developed for tourism. Areas outside Tadoba and Nagzira too have tigers. Q. What is your interest in Nagpur as tiger capital? A. Those who say I'm doing it for publicity think it's cheap. It's true that the tiger increases popularity but I'm serious about what I'm saying. I don't run an NGO or a travel agency to think about tourism commercially. I remember the dialogue of superstar Amitabh Bachchan in 'Deewar' - "Mere pass maa hai." I'm also proud to say: "Mere pass sheer hai." I have requested Natarajan to organize a brainstorming session in Nagpur involving NTCA, stakeholders, officials, experts, tour operators and others to boost ecotourism in the region.

Save the tiger

TNN | Apr 16, 2012, 06.41AM IST The Shri Ram School, Moulsari Campus, hosted the annual Kids for Tigers Fest on April 13. The event saw the participation of over 20 schools across the NCR. A number of activities were conducted, including Nukkad Natak, Kabbad se Juggad and Music from Junk. The day started off with the inauguration ceremony, which introduced the Tiger Ambassadors appointed by the Sanctuary Magazine. Each school was given a food and games stall to set up and run, the proceeds of which will be used for the development of the villages around Ranthambore. Younger children participated in the fancy dress event where they each dressed up as endangered animals and delivered monologues urging the audience to save the species. An eco-fashion show was also held where participants sported outfits made out of scrap and recyclable materials. Senior students took part in Nukkad Natak. Each team presented a street play revolving around various environmental issues such as conservation, the impact of industrialisation and pollution. Recycling was at its best in the events Kubbad se Juggad and Music from Junk. The teams arrived with designs for their various projects such as periscopes to be made out of junk. In the musical display, the rhythms and harmonies created, using a variety of scrap objects were innovative and imaginative. The event was organised by a representative of KFT, Sharmistha Adyanathya, along with the student organisers , the TSRS Head of Environmental Initiatives, Sarthak Malhotra and his team. Although chaotic, food, fun and cheer prevailed while the school buzzed with excitement, celebrating a renewed zest and spirit for saving the tiger.