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Monday, June 25, 2012

CBI probe likely into death of tigers in Panna reserve

PTI | Jun 25, 2012, 01.55AM IST BHOPAL: After receiving complaints of lackadaisical approach in the probe of tiger deaths, Madhya Pradesh government is likely to order a CBI enquiry to investigate the alleged disappearance and poaching of tigers from Panna Tiger Reserve. Officials said Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has sought a detailed reply from the forest department after complaints that a foreign syndicate and an organised gang were involved in the poaching of tigers. "The Chief Minister's Office has received a complaint (seeking CBI probe) and asked the forest department to reply," said Manoj Shrivastava, principal secretary to the chief minister. Earlier this month, the Madhya Pradesh government had declined to order a CBI probe and instead formed a committee to investigate the tiger deaths. Information received in response to an RTI query, the then additional chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh M K Roy had recommended a CBI probe to look into poaching and disappearance of tigers from the sanctuary. "There have been many cases of poaching and disappearance of tigers in the last 5-10 years from PTR. "The state government wants the CBI to probe the conspiracy angle into the disappearance of tigers from the reserve and involvement of international smugglers in it. All such cases where challans have not been submitted should also be incorporated in it (probe)," Roy, who is now the Chairman of Madhya Pradesh Board of Secondary Education, had said in his letter written in January last year. After a year of inter-departmental deliberations, the home department had constituted a committee apparently rejecting the recommendations for a CBI probe made by the former top officer of the forest department. "We have asked the Chief Minister to look into the matter. We are hopeful that a CBI enquiry will be ordered to probe tiger deaths," said wildlife activist Ajay Dubey, who has accessed Roy's letter through RTI. As per the norms, the decision to constitute a CBI enquiry is taken by the Department of Personnel and Training, a Central nodal agency in Delhi, on the recommendation of a state Home Department. A report by the Madhya Pradesh government says there was no tiger in Panna Reserve in the 2009 census carried out by the authorities there. There were about 20 tigers in 2006, the report adds. About 19 cases of tiger poaching were reported by authorities in the reserve over the last seven or eight years, the report had found. Currently, there are four tigers in the reserve which have been brought from other reserves. Dubey claimed that there are instances of poaching and trafficking of tigers to various national and international destinations by well-established syndicates which need to be exposed and punished. According to an RTI reply by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, as many as 337 tigers died in and outside various reserves of the country in the last decade due to poaching, infighting, accidents and old age among others. Tiger population in the country was estimated to be 1,706 as per the 2010 data.

Pench eco-sensitive zone proposal ready

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Jun 25, 2012, 12.34AM IST NAGPUR: The territorial, wildlife and revenue department officials seem to have geared up to finalize the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) proposals mandatory under the Environment Protection Act 1986. With ESZ proposals for Nagzira and New Nagzira wildlife sanctuaries and Navegaon National Park and New Navegaon Wildlife Sanctuary already with the government, officials have finalized a similar proposal for the Pench Tiger Reserve. The proposal of Pench was finalized at a meeting on June 22. It includes 49,466ha land with 55 villages, 19,608ha reserve forest (RF), 4,024ha protected forest (PF), 15,124ha Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) area and 10,709 hectare non-forest land. "We were working on it since March and till now four meetings were held. The Pench proposal will be sent to the government through the chief wildlife warden soon," forest officials told TOI. "The 'delineation of ESZs' would be site specific and relates to regulation, prohibition and permission. Once the ESZs are notified by the government, highly polluting units will not be allowed in such zones. If such units already exist they will be allowed to run till the licence exists," they said. Deputy conservator of forests (DyCF) for Gondia said the ESZ proposal for Navegaon and Nagzira is not as per the 10km radius but is site specific depending on the land use pattern. "We started preparing the proposal in January and submitted it in April," Ramarao said. The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has reiterated its request to the states to declare 10km area around the national park and sanctuaries as ESZs. The MoEF had issued fresh guidelines on February 9, 2011 to all the chief wildlife wardens and PCCFs reminding them about the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) decision on March 17, 2005, on delineation of ESZs. There is also a Supreme Court order December 4, 2006 on a PIL filed by the Goa Foundation on the issue of declaring ESZs. The apex court had also directed the MoEF to give a final opportunity to the states to respond to the NBWL decision in four weeks. However, very few states like Haryana, Gujarat, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam and Goa forwarded ESZs proposals. In Maharashtra, after court orders, the then PCCF B Majumdar had sent proposals for declaring ESZs around 41 PAs. The first proposal was of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Borivili, but it was rejected looking into the cluster of buildings and apartments that have come up near the park. Of the remaining 40 PAs, the Great India Bustard (GIB) sanctuary in Solapur and Tungareshwar was not recommended for ESZ due to similar problems. Proposals for ESZs for around 38 sanctuaries were referred back by the government. Since then officials sat on the proposals. In November last, principal secretary (forests) Praveen Pardeshi initiated the process and accordingly things have started moving. The government has already declared buffer zones for three tiger reserves - Tadoba, Pench and Melghat. Talking to TOI, wildlife expert Kishor Rithe said the purpose of declaring ESZs around PAs is to create some kind of 'shock absorber' for the protected areas (PAs). They would also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection. Officials said many existing PAs have already undergone tremendous development in close vicinity to their boundaries. The best example is of the Adani power plant near the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary and widening of NH6 and NH7 by the NHAI near Navegaon National Park and Pench.

Officials attacked by illegal miners in Ranthambore

Nitesh Kumar Sharma, TNN | Jun 24, 2012, 05.53PM IST JAIPUR: The practice of illegal mining in protected Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan's Sawai Madhopur district came to the light once again on Saturday when a group of illegal miners attacked a team of forest department officers. The team had gone to Khatupura area here to prevent illegal mining and had seized some vehicles, however, they were attacked. Police have registered an FIR against about two dozen people. According to the police, reserve's Sherpura check-post incharge has registered an FIR. "Acting on a tip-off, a forest department team had gone to a Khatupura area to prevent illegal mining. They seized some tractors laden with illegally mined gravel and some equipment used in mining," a police officer said. However, when they were returning with the seized items, a group of about two dozen people started pelting stones on them. "The team officials had to retreat. The attackers got away with the tractors and other equipments," the officer said. He added that the officials informed the police following which a search was launched. However, the attackers managed to escape. "We have identified some of the attackers and will arrest them soon," said the officer. Sources said that the raiding team's officials were not properly equipped to counter such an attack. "They should have informed the police in advance before conducting such a raid," said the officer. The illegal mining is going unabated in Sawai Madhopur, Alwar, Rajsamand and some other districts despite the state government's tall claims of putting a check on it.

Foresters search for tiger in Bundu

Alok K N Mishra, TNN Jun 23, 2012, 11.20PM IST Ranchi police|Ram Mohan Singh Munda|Mohan Singh|Kundan Pahan|Judicial Event|Jharkhand RANCHI: The state forest department has started a search for a stray tiger in Bundu forest, some 40 km from here. Regional chief conservator of forest (RCCF), Ranchi, D K Srivastava has formally asked the Ranchi and Khunti district forest officers and other officials to be on the alert. "The vigil for the tiger has been increased. Forest officials have been asked to hold talks with tribals, especially cattle grazers, for information about the big cat," said Srivastava. The development follows the reported killing of a Maoist by a stray tiger in Bundu forests recently. On June 17 Ranchi police had seized a letter purportedly written by the South Chhotanagpur Zonal Committee commander of the CPI(Maoist), Kundan Pahan, wherein he claimed that a friend of theirs was killed and eaten up by a stray tiger recently. Pahan had addressed the letter to another Maoist, Pragati Da. "A friend was killed and eaten by a tiger recently. It is a huge loss and a cause of great concern. I am just briefing you about the incident. I will tell you more when we meet," the letter says. The letter was recovered by police from an arrested Maoist, Ram Mohan Singh Munda, a close aide of Pahan. Munda was arrested from Tamar block last week. On a few occasions experts have come across stray tigers in the jungles of Jharkhand. "Although tiger is a territorial animal and prefer to live in a familiar geography, it cannot be denied that they venture out of their territories at times," said Khunti DFO K K Tripathi, under whose jurisdiction the Bundu forest falls. The officials are basically concentrating on finding pug marks, information about kills made by the tiger and tips from tribals. "In the last five days my officials in both the districts have contacted several tribals to gather information about the big cat but they have not come across anything substantial," said the RCCF. The RCCF has requested all concerned to provide the department with any information about tigers. Regional chief conservators of forests in the state directly monitor all the non-reserved forest areas. Jharkhand's forest department officials are of the view thinks that only six tigers live in Palamu Tiger Reserve, a 1000 sq km area. The figure has been obtained from last year's census. But experts believe that Jharkhand has more than six tigers. Jharkhand tiger man and member of the National Tiger Conservation Authority D S Srivastava said in the recent past tigers has been sighted in Hazaribag, Latehar, and Koderma districts. "After the news (of a Maoist falling prey to tiger) broke I have also alerted my sources in the forests to watch out for tigers," said Srivastava. "The Bundu forest is not as conducive for a tiger to live in as Saranda. There are chances that the big cat may have moved to Saranda. But the forest department should not stop searching just for this reason," Srivastava added. Certain parts of the 478-sq-km area of Bundu forest are inaccessible to tribals due to presence of Maoists. A thick forest corridor connects this forest through the jungles of Torpa and Raniya to Saranda. Police say Maoist commander Pahan has been hiding in the forests here.