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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sahyadri buffer not notified to protect political interests?

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Jul 25, 2012, 05.16AM IST NAGPUR: Notifying buffer zones around tiger reserves is mandatory as per the amended Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) of 2006, but even two years after Sahyadri in Western Maharashtra was declared a tiger reserve the state government is yet to notify its buffer. The state had notified Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR), along the crest of western ghats in Kolhapur wildlife division, on January 5, 2010. The STR consists of Chandoli National Park (317.67 sq km) and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary (423.55 sq km). Declaring a buffer zone is important, due to pressure from projects like mining, roads, resorts and wind mills that want environment clearance in the vicinity. Going against this principle, the state is trying to protect such projects, which have come up in a big way around Sahyadri, and hence delaying notification of buffer area. A Supreme Court bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla on Tuesday warned of contempt proceedings and imposition of exemplary costs on states which fail to notify buffer zones around reserves. Chief wildlife warden SWH Naqvi said, "Plan to notify STR will be expedited; it is almost ready. We are waiting for National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) decision to clear rationalization of the boundary of Koyna sanctuary." However, as per minutes of the 25th NBWL meeting held on June 13, the board agreed to regularize over 1,000 land deals, besides 10 resorts and 215 windmills that have come up in the ecologically sensitive zone of STR. The NBWL has recommended exclusion of these projects from the buffer and rationalization of Koyna sanctuary on the grounds that Maharashtra will instead notify proposed sanctuaries like Rajmachi (122 sq km), Sudhagarh-Tamni (220.18 sq km), Tipagad (52.4 sq km), Isapur (121.55 sq km) and Kolamarka (187 sq km). Naqvi justified rationalizing of Koyna sanctuary, saying Sahyadri should not be a paper tiger reserve. However, rationalization of Koyna will be subject to a PIL filed by local NGO led by Nana Khamkar in Bombay High Court, and an application before the centrally empowered committee (CEC) regarding violation of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Forest Conservation Act 1980. Khamkar told TOI that attempts to delay Sahyadri buffer notification were made to clear controversial projects that had been allowed to come up near the tiger reserve bypassing forest and wildlife laws. He added that without taking the Centre's nod, state had announced the development of the New Mahabaleshwar hill station and included 14 Koyna villages in it. In a few years, most of the land in the villages has been sold illegally. Member of state's buffer zone committee Kishor Rithe admits it is essential to notify buffer of any tiger reserve. In case of Sahyadri, since final notification and denotification of Koyna sanctuary is in process, the delay in buffer is considerable. "Hope the government will do it soon, once sanctuary final notification and critical tiger habitat (CTH) renotification is settled," Rithe added. The apex court had twice - on April 4 and July 10 - asked the state to notify buffer of Sahyadri but state failed to comply. If the state fails to comply within three weeks, it shall be saddled with a cost of Rs50,000, recoverable from principal secretary (forest) of the state concerned. The court also imposed a cost of Rs10,000 each on Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand for not complying with its orders. Forest secretary Praveen Pardeshi did not reply to a query sent to him. Rationalizing Koyna Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary was notified on September 16, 1985, under section 18 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. The notified area of the sanctuary is 423.55 sq km, which includes 229.45 sq km forest area and 198.02 sq km non-forest area. The enquiry officer appointed under WPA 1972 for the enquiry into Koyna had conducted enquiries between 1995-1998 under sections 19 to 25 of the said act and submitted their reports to the district collector. The enquiry officer and subdivisional officer, Karad, had passed orders for exclusion of non-forest area of 14 villages of Patan taluka of Koyna sanctuary, admeasuring 99.65 sq km.

Another tigress loses life in territorial battle

TNN | Jul 25, 2012, 05.22AM IST CHANDRAPUR: Yet another tigress has been found killed, this time in North Brahmapuri range, in territorial fight. Carcass of the tigress was discovered near Dudhwahi village on Tuesday morning. A villager passing through the Adyal-Dudhwahi road first saw the carcass in the morning. He reported the matter to villagers of Dudhwahi who in turn informed a forest guard. On getting information senior officers of Brahmapuri forest division rushed to the spot. ACF NG Waghade claimed that tigress was 3-4 years old. He ruled out the possibility of poaching claiming that all vital body parts of the beast are intact. "The carcass was recovered in compartment no. 125 of North Brahmapuri range. Its teeth, nails and skin are intact; hence there is no possibility of poaching. We have recovered signs of territorial fight on the scene. The tigress was killed in a fighting with another tiger," said Waghade. The scene itself gave impression of the territorial fight. The scrubs around the carcass were tampered. The dead tigress had multiple injuries. There were deep canine marks on its head. The claw injury marks were found on head, neck and back of the body. The carcass was fresh and it appears that scuffle between two tigers took place early in the morning, he said. "We have also found pug marks of another tiger on the spot. An eyewitness claimed to have seen another tiger in the same area," Waghade said. Senior officers including CCF, Chandrapur forest circle, BSK Reddy and DCF, Brahmapuri forest division, Sanjay Thawre also visited the scene and inspected the carcass. Two veterinary doctors carried out the post mortem in the presence of NTCA representative Prafulla Bhamburbar, while Bandu Dhotre was present as representative of PCCF during the post mortem. Vets confirmed the cause of death as massive brain haemorrhage. "It has severe canine injury on the skull, which caused haemorrhage leading to death," said Dr Parag Khobragade, who along with other vet Dr Megha Vankar carried out the post mortem. The carcass was cremated before senior officers and witnesses. Large mob of onlookers had gathered on the spot to see the dead tiger. Eight tiger deaths in 2012 So far eight tigers have died in Chandrapur this year. This is third successive incident in which tiger has been killed either in territorial fight with another tiger or by any other animal. On June 29, a tiger cub, killed by wild dogs, was found in Dhaba range. On June 30, the carcass of a full grown tiger, killed in territorial fight with another tiger, was found in FDCM Junona range.

SC ban on tourism in national parks: Guides, hotel owners worried

Rachna Singh, TNN | Jul 25, 2012, 05.07AM IST JAIPUR: The tiger town of Sawai Madhopur is in disbelief over the Supreme Court order banning tourism in the core areas of national parks in the country. The little town thrives only on account of tiger tourism that gives livelihood to many like the guides, drivers to the chain of hotels and the handicraft industry. In the past few years, Ranthambore saw quick proliferation of hotels, lodges and rented accommodations, all catering to the tiger safari in the reserve. "At the moment there are 40-50 small and big hotels in Ranthambore and about 50 more are in various stages of construction. With an inventory of 2,000 rooms today, the place is expected to get another 500 rooms in near future," said Balendu Singh, a local hotelier and an honorary wildlife warden. While stressing on the fact that this is only an interim order, Balendu said: "National Tiger Conservation Authority has been lobbying for a ban on tourism in the core area. If this comes around, it would affect eight districts in the state, namely Alwar (Sariska), Dausa, Dholpur, Karauli, Sawai Madhopur, Baran, Chittorgarh and Kota where tiger ranges fall in." Echoing the same, Yadevendra Singh, president of guides association said: "The government with their limited resources cannot save the tiger. Tiger tourism is as big in Rajasthan as monument tourism in other places. With so much awareness about the tiger, importance of bio-diversity, conservation, tourism has increased leaps and bounds contributing directly or indirectly to the cause of the tiger." "If 20 years back, there were only four gypsies that went into the forest, today even 40 are less. Today there are 104 guides, 300 vehicle owners and drivers and over 2000-3000 people who are directly or indirectly associated with the industry that are dependent on the tiger. It is in our interest to ensure that the tiger and its habitat are maintained," said Yadevendra.

Tiger Foundation for Palamu reserve in offing

TNN | Jul 25, 2012, 12.32AM IST DALTONGANJ: Decks have been cleared for the setting up of Tiger Foundation (TF) and Tiger Conservation Plan (TCP) for the Palamu Tiger Reserve (PTR) here. Sources said the possible obstacles have been overcome in this regard. The main hurdle was the absence of notification of the Buffer Area of the PTR. The Buffer Area of the PTR has been notified by an order of the governor of the state on July 14. Sources said this is the first time that the PTR's Buffer Area has been notified since the former came into existence here in 1974. A total of 715.85 sq km out of 1,026 sq km of PTR has been notified as the Buffer Area. The conservator of the Buffer Area, Anil K Mishra confirmed the notification. Sources said the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) Delhi had put on hold the formation of TF and TCP in absence of the notification. After the formation of this TF, funds allotted by the NTCA will be directly handed over to the PTR authorities without involving the state. Thus, the persisting problem of getting funds from the state government as late as in the third week of March (the last financial month of any financial year) will be a thing of the past once this TF is set up here. Further the TCP envisages a massive spectrum for the conservation of this big cat. As the Buffer Area has been notified there cannot be expansion or deletion of even an inch of this notified area without seeking permission from the Supreme Court, said one official. The inhabitants of 136 villages, falling under the Buffer Area of the PTR, will head for a bleak future as they will not be allowed to claim any right on the land where they are settled since the last two decades. The notified Buffer Area will be the sole property of the PTR henceforward said the official. There cannot be any settlement of land falling under this notified area with traditional tribal dwellers.

SC order: Wildlife wing in Maharashtra bans tourism in tiger reserves

Pradip Kumar Maitra, Hindustan Times Supreme Court’s Tuesday order to ban tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves would boost the protection and conservation of big cats in the tiger projects in the state, particularly Tadoba, Pench and Melghat reserves feel nature-lovers and conservationists. The Court order came in response to a public interest litigation which claimed that tourism activities were putting pressure on crucial tiger habitats and tiger safaris and resorts should instead be shifted to buffer zones. A bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla also warned of contempt proceedings and imposition of exemplary costs on state which failed to notify the buffer zones in their respective tiger reserves. "The tourism activities in all the tiger reserves in Maharashtra, particularly Tadoba, Pench and Melghat will be stopped following the Apex court’s order as all the entry gates of these reserves are in core areas," said Kishore Rithe, member, National Board for Wildlife. However, the Maharashtra government already notified buffer zones in three of its four tiger reserves, recently. They are Tadoba, Pench and Melghat while nothing was done in Sahyadri tiger reserve of western Maharashtra in this regard. The Pench tiger reserve in Nagpur district, with a core area of 275 sq kms, has a 500-sq km buffer zone while the Melghat reserve, with a total area of 2,300 sq kms, has 1,268 sq km buffer zone. Tadoba is spread over 623 sq kms and 1150 sq kms as its buffer zone. The buffer zones were notified in accordance with the 2006 amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which make buffer zones mandatory for protection areas notified as critical tiger habitats (CTH). All these three tiger reserves received CTH status in December 2007. The Supreme Court expressed its strong displeasure that several states, despite earlier directions, failed to notify the buffer zones in their respective reserves and warned that if they failed to comply within three weeks the defaulting states shall be saddled with a cost of Rs. 50,000 each, recoverable from the principal secretary, forest department of the concerned state. The apex court also imposed a cost of Rs. 10,000 each on Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Jharkhand for not complying with its directions. SWH Naqvi, the state wildlife warden and principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Maharashtra, claimed declaring of buffer zone in Sahyadri tiger reserve was under process. "We have already declared buffer zones for three reserves. We also value and respect the Supreme Court order and will act accordingly," he added. Rithe claimed that the national tiger conservation authority has agreed to allow 20% of the core area for tourism. "The issue is expected to be discussed before the Apex court during the next hearing on August 22," he said. However, the recent order would make it mandatory for those states which are still hostile to declare buffer zones in tiger reserves. Virendra Tiwari, the field director of Tadoba tiger project said that the tourist activities in the reserves would be stopped from Wednesday in the wake of the apex court’s order. "We will refund entry fees to those who had made the advance booking for visiting the reserves," he informed.

A terrible setback: tourism minister Bina Kak

TNN | Jul 25, 2012, 05.11AM IST JAIPUR: The park is closed at the moment and I will be able to comment only when I read the whole judgment. But on the face of it, this would be a terrible set back, said Rajasthan minister for tourism and forests, Bina Kak, while commenting on the Supreme Court's decision to ban tourism in core areas of Project Tiger forests. "The mismanagement of tourism in Madhya Pradesh should not affect other parks. Our national parks are very well managed. In fact most of the times tourism industry acts as the custodian of the park. It is the guides and tourists who give us first hand information of the park. I have asked for a copy of the judgment and will also write to the MoEF," said Kak.