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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tribals have right to live near wildlife sanctuaries: Supreme Court

Read more on »wildlife sanctuaries|V Kishore Chandra Deo|Supreme Court|Kishore Chandra NEW DELHI: The Centre would approach the Supreme Court to look into the rightful claims of tribals living near wildlife sanctuaries, while addressing the ban on tiger tourism. On July 24, the Supreme Court had issued a stern directive to nine states to notify core and buffer zones of tiger reserves and prohibit any tourism within the core breeding grounds of the big cats. Following the order, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has received alarming reports of forcible eviction of tribals from near wildlife sanctuaries. Speaking to ET, Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo said, "In the name of demarcating core and buffer zones after the Supreme Court order, the state governments are deliberately evicting forest dwellers from their land. We have received alarming reports of eviction of tribals from Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh." The minister said that the Supreme Court has not been kept informed about the ground realities in the wildlife sanctuaries. "Tribals have a symbiotic existence with wildlife for decades now. The states have not implemented the Forest Rights Act and PESA. Under these Acts they need to recognise the tribal's right to their land. Now they are evicting them and depriving them of their means of livelihood," Deo said. His ministry would now make a case for first implementing existing laws and protecting interest of tribals, while making efforts for conservation of the natural breeding grounds for tigers. The SC would hear the matter on Wednesday. Only Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh notified breeding grounds and filed affidavits, after the court's April 3 directive. The court on July 24 gave states three weeks to demarcate core and buffer zones but Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka are yet to respond.

MoEF takes a U-turn on tourism ban in core of tiger reserves

Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN | Aug 22, 2012, 04.23AM IST NEW DELHI: A month after the Supreme Court relied on the government's guidelines to ban tourism in core areas of tiger reserves, making popular destinations like Corbett National Park out of bounds for wildlife enthusiasts, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) on Tuesday did an about turn, telling the court that it needed to re-think the guidelines. The SC's July 24 order banning tourism in core areas had led to loud protests from states and thriving commercial ventures in and around tiger reserves. The ministry, which had gone to great lengths to finalize the detailed guidelines, appears to have wilted under political and commercial pressure and sought time from the court to review its "finalized" guidelines. On July 9, MoEF filed the 'Guidelines for Ecotourism in and around Protected Areas' in the apex court and said, "Any core area in tiger reserve from which relocation has been carried out will not be used for tourism activities." The guidelines were based on key recommendations of the Tiger Task Force (2005) and were in sync with Section 38(v) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (as amended in 2006), which defined core/critical wildlife habitats as such areas that needed to be kept inviolate for tiger conservation without affecting the rights of Scheduled Tribes or forest dwellers. But on Tuesday, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) functioning under the MoEF in its affidavit through advocate Wasim A Qadri said the Union government had received inputs and suggestions from states in the context of the SC's interim order banning tourism in core areas of tiger reserves and that it needed time to consider them. "The states have expressed concern that many local people depend on tourism for their livelihood and hence stoppage of tourism in core areas of tiger reserves would result in loss of such income leading to discontent which may be a threat to wildlife and forests," the NTCA said. "Besides, the common citizen would be deprived of an opportunity to appreciate our natural heritage. Further, concerns have been expressed from various quarters on the process adopted by states in notifying the buffer areas of tiger reserve," it said. Citing the loss of income to local population and people being deprived of appreciating wildlife heritage, the Union government requested the court to permit it to "review the guidelines and conduct more consultations with all stakeholders including state governments and representatives of local and indigenous communities besides reviewing the process adopted by states in notifying buffer areas of tiger reserves". But in the guidelines submitted to the court on July 9, the Centre was well aware of the tourism activities happening in core areas of tiger reserves. "Given that tourism has been happening in these core/critical areas, there is a need for phasing this out and moving it to peripheral/buffer areas to benefit local communities," it had said. "Within five years, permanent facilities located inside of core tiger habitat/critical wildlife habitat, which are being used for wildlife tourism, should be phased out," it added.

Govt backs off on tourism ban in core tiger areas

Anindo Dey, TNN | Aug 22, 2012, 12.59AM IST JAIPUR: A month after the Supreme Court banned tourism in core areas of tiger reserves on the basis of Union environment ministry's guidelines, the ministry did an about turn on Tuesday, telling the court that it needed to rethink the guidelines. The SC order banning tourism in core areas had led to loud protests from states and thriving commercial ventures in and around tiger reserves. In an affidavit, the Centre cited loss of livelihood and a threat to wildlife and forests in the event of a ban on tourism. The affidavit also mentions loss of a chance for the common people to see the natural heritage. The affidavit, jointly filed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the ministry of environment and forests, says that the earlier guidelines need to be reviewed as it required more consultations with stakeholders. State govt keen to lift ban on tiger tourism The Centre on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court seeking its permission to review the existing guidelines on tiger sanctuaries in the country, on which basis the court had imposed a ban on tourism in the core area of tiger reserves. In fact, Rajasthan has been taking a keen initiative to get the ban lifted. On Tuesday morning, minister for tourism, forests and environment Bina Kak got a call from the ministry of forests and environment (MoEF) confirming the receipt of a letter she had sent to the chairperson of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) Sonia Gandhi, after the court order. "I had written to the chairperson of the NAC and president of Congress Sonia Gandhi requesting her to direct the MoEF for a review and a revision of the guidelines submitted to the court for tourism in tiger reserves. This morning I got a call from Union minister Jayanthi Natarajan that a copy of my letter has been forwarded to her by the NAC chairperson," said Kak. The minister has also been coordinating with forests ministers from other tiger states for becoming a party to the case. "I have spoken to Chhagan Bhujbal in Maharashtra and to the forest ministers from Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh and Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay. We will all be a party in the case now," she said. "Wildlife is important but so is tourism. However, tourism should be regulated. Often tourists serve as an eye for us. As far as Rajasthan is concerned, we have done everything that was told to us by the NTCA. This time when I went to Ranthambore even the small time hotel owners were also on a dharna following the order but they have confidence in the government of Rajasthan. They assured us that they will do whatever we tell them to. Even if the Supreme Court allows them inside but if we tell them not to do so they will abide by us," Kak added. Not different are the view of conservation groups. "We have all seen the guidelines of the MoEF ever since the court order. There are definite flaws in them. In fact, the government of Rajasthan, which has a hotel inside the forest premises, feel more than the others. There are some NGOs that might too intervene," said conservation biologist Dharmendra Khandal of Tiger Watch.

Tigers reign as people leave

Anindo Dey, TNN | Aug 22, 2012, 01.01AM IST JAIPUR: The shifting of a few villages from the periphery of Ranthambore National Park has started showing results. The big cats, which were scrambling for space, have now more space to move around and expand their breeding zones. On Tuesday morning, tigress T-22 was seen mating with tiger T-23 in Bodal beat near Mordungri village. Thirty families from the village moved to Amli, some 35 km away in Tonk district, barely a month back. Originally consisting of about 157 families, the rest had earlier took the offer of cash package of Rs 10 lakh and relocated. "It is good news indeed. My officers were on their field trip when they sighted the two tigers barely yards away from the Mordungri village. The tigers were mating. T-22 is the mother of T-23 and T-24," said Bina Kak, minister for tourism, forests and environment. "While tracking on Tuesday around 7.30 am, I noticed fresh pugmarks on the road towards Gura and heard tigers' roar on the right. On intensive tracking, the male and female were noticed together and were seen mating 4-6 times," says Rajesh Gupta, field director, Ranthambore. Officials are hopeful that if and when T-22 litters, it would probably choose some area near Mordungri. Earlier in April, tigress T-9 had given birth to two cubs close to Padra village which was relocated in December 2011. "The relocation of Mordungri was possible because of a pivotal role played by Sawai Madhopur district collector Giriraj Singh Kushwaha. He was ably assisted by my officers. The villagers who vacated moved away on their own and were never coaxed. They were provided land as compensation apart from gas connections, poverty line cards and water supply," added Kak. Mordungri is situated at a strategic point along the corridor extending from the Ranthambore National Park and the Sawai Man Singh sanctuary. "The removal of disturbances adds to the natal area for tigers. Natal areas are breeding zones for tigers. In this case, with the villagers shifting, the tigers automatically occupied these areas for breeding. We are hopeful that the relocation of more villages will further add to the habitat of tigers here," said an official. So far, 15 villages have been relocated from Ranthambore since 1976. While 12 were relocated in that year, Indala was relocated in 2008-09. Machangi in 2009-10, Padra in 2010-11 and finally Mordungri in 2012. The relocation of these villages will add to more space for the tiger population that has been burgeoning. Currently there are about 52 tigers, including 27 cubs in the reserve. However, there are more villages awaiting relocation and officials say that Katauli and Bhid villages may be the next in line.

Govt notifies Sahyadri reserve buffer

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Aug 22, 2012, 01.14AM IST NAGPUR: A day ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on banning tourism in core areas of tiger reserves, the Maharashtra government finally notified buffer zone of the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR) along the crest of Western Ghats in Kolhapur Wildlife Division in Western Maharashtra. According to highly placed sources, both, the buffer and core area of the STR will combine an area of 1,165.56 sq km. It includes buffer zone of 424.34 sq km. The state had notified 741.22 sq km STR on January 5, 2010. It consisted of Chandoli National Park (317.67 sq km) and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary (423.55 sq km). However, sources said of the 741.22 sq km actual core area i.e. critical tiger habitat (CTH) will be 600.21 sq km. The remaining 141 sq km area has been included in the buffer. According to Wildlife Institute of India estimation, there are 24 tigers in the tiger reserve and its landscape. "The CTH area has been chosen after consultations with gram sabhas, inquiries and expert committee's decision under the provisions of Section 38 (V) of the amended Wildlife Protection Act 1972," officials told TOI. Maharashtra's principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) SWH Naqvi said a detailed notification about the buffer will be out soon. He refused to comment further, saying the matter would be heard in the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The National Board for Wild Life has already recommended rationalization of Koyna sanctuary by excluding around 100 sq km area of the STR which includes 14 villages and windmill projects. However, the condition is that Maharashtra will have to 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) in the future. Considering the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines, a tiger reserve should be around 800-1000 sq km with an equal area of buffer for breeding of 100 tigers. However, barring Melghat, no tiger reserve in the state fulfils the guidelines. The Supreme Court will hear the petition filed by Prayatna, an NGO based in Bhopal, demanding ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves on Wednesday. On July 24, the apex court had rapped the states for not notifying buffer zones around tiger reserves and had imposed a ban on tourism in core areas of reserves till further orders.

Rehabilitation work of Tadoba villages on fast track

Mazhar Ali, TNN | Aug 22, 2012, 01.35AM IST CHANDRAPUR: The rehabilitation work of the two villages Navegaon (Ramdegi) and Jamni, that are being relocated out of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, has been put on the fast track. While government has expedited the work for constructing civic amenities, beneficiary villagers, too, have began construction of their residences at rehabilitation sites. Nearly 50% of families from the two villages have availed the benefits of practical rehabilitation, while the other half have opted for Rs10 lakh cash compensation package. Navegaon village is being rehabilitated in near Khadsangi village, while Jamni village is being rehabilitated near Amdi village. Both these rehabilitation villages are in Chimur forest range. There were six villages inside TATR. During first phase of rehabilitation, entire Botezari and part of Kolsa village was rehabilitated out of the tiger reserve in year 2007. Out of 230 families from Navegaon village, 115 have opted for rehabilitation, while remaining 115 have sought Rs10 lakh cash compensation. Similarly out of 218 families in Jamni, 105 have opted for rehabilitation and 113 families have decided to go with cash benefit of Rs10 lakh. Work at Khadsangi is slightly ahead of that of Amdi. Field director and CCF, TATR, Virendra Tiwari said, "We have accomplished levelling of 200 hectares of agricultural land out of the 250 hectares in the village. We have constructed the water tank and laid the pipeline. Even tap connections at 112 plots have been provided. Electrification work is also nearly accomplished with erection of electric line through 192 poles and installation of three transformers." At Amdi, electrification work is underway, while laying of water supply pipeline has been accomplished in 5.5km. Work of constructing public tube wells has been completed, while construction of water supply tank is underway. The levelling work of agricultural fields has been done in only 40 hectares of land, Tiwari said. PCCF (wildlife) SWH Naqvi and state forest secretary Pravin Pardeshi are keeping a close tab on the work at both the sites. Both officers have inspected the work several times and have interacted with the beneficiary villagers to seek their reaction about it.

Centre seeks court’s nod for review of tiger reserve norms

J. VENKATESAN ‘States feel ban will affect local people dependent on tourism for livelihood’ Under pressure from various States, the Central government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court seeking permission to review the guidelines issued under the Wildlife (Protection) Act for the States to ban all tourism activities in core areas of tiger reserve forests. The case will come up for hearing on Wednesday. On July 24, a Bench of Justices Swatatner Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla imposed the ban, when told that most of the States had not complied with the directions contained in the guidelines. On Tuesday, Wasim A. Qadri, counsel for the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, filed the affidavit. Subsequent to the July 24 order, he said, the States sent in representations saying that they would like to give inputs for reviewing the guidelines. “The States have expressed concern that many local people depend on tourism for their livelihood, and hence stoppage of tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves would result in [a] loss of such income, leading to discontent which may be a threat to wildlife and forests. Besides, the common citizen would be deprived of an opportunity to appreciate our natural heritage. Further, concerns have been expressed in various quarters at the process adopted by the States for notifying the buffer areas of the tiger reserves,” the affidavit said. “The NTCA feels that the guidelines, submitted in the context of ecotourism in and around protected areas, require a further review based on more consultations with all stakeholders, including the State governments and representatives of local, indigenous communities.” Hence, the court should permit the NTCA to further review the guidelines and hold more consultations with all stakeholders and go through the process the States adopted for notifying the buffer areas. Several States, non-governmental organisations and other interested parties had also filed applications for lifting the ban. The Bench passed the ban order on a petition filed by conservationist Ajay Dubey seeking a direction to the States to notify the buffer/peripheral areas of tiger reserves for prevention of tourism in the core areas. Subsequently, 10 States issued the notification.

First tiger force in Karnataka

Express News Service Karnataka is the first state to create a special tiger protection force (STPF) in the Bandipur tiger reserve, said Environment and Forest Minister Jayanti Natrajan on Tuesday in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha. Natrajan said that under the ongoing centrally sponsored scheme of ‘Project Tiger’, 100 per cent central assistance is provided to states for raising, arming and deploying in sensitive tiger reserves, stated a press statement from the Environment Ministry. Based on tiger abundance and vulnerability, 12 tiger reserves in the country have been identified. They are Dudhwa in Uttar Pradesh, Corbett in Uttarakhand, Ranthambhore in Rajasthan, Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh, Pakke in Arunachal Pradesh, Bandipur in Karnataka, Pench in Maharashtra, Kaziranga in Assam and Similipal in Assam.

Central tiger conservation delegation visits Palamu

TNN | Aug 22, 2012, 02.28AM IST RANCHI: A three-member team from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is on a field visit to the Palamu Tiger Reserve (PTR) to assess the state of conservation of the big cat in Jharkhand. The team members held talks with villagers, forest guards and staff engaged in the conservation of forests, development of green cover and eco development. Though no official could be contacted over phone for his comment, sources at PTR said they were pretty dissatisfied with the conservation efforts at the park. They will continue with their field visit on Wednesday also. Sources said the NTCA is vexed with the rapid decline in the number of tigers at PTR. The appraisal team will also meet the Jharkhand forest secretary on Thursday and hold discussions with him. The NTCA team consists of former director of Tiger Project, P K Sen, who is also the former wildlife warden of Jharkhand; retired principal chief conservator of forests, Tamil Nadu, S Raju; and Jyoti Das of NTCA. The Jharkhand principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), A K Malhotra, also accompanied the officials during their inspection.

Raja writes to PM on tiger reserves

New Delhi: Forest rights of tribals and the poor were being denied due to creation of buffer zones around tiger reserves without implementing the Forests Rights Act and sought an immediate halt to such moves, a CPI MP today said. Noting that the 2006 Wildlife (Prevention) Act necessitated coexistence between wildlife and human activity in consultation with the gram sabhas, CPI leader D Raja said "none of the steps (required by the Act) are being followed." "Driven by a series of short Supreme Court deadlines, state governments across the country are hastily notifying buffer zones around tiger reserves," he said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Raja said the Environment Ministry had not yet stated what activities would or would not be permitted in the buffer zones. "Moreover, in the time that has been granted by the Supreme Court, meaningful consultation is simply not possible." He said this problem was compounded by the fact that in 2007, tiger reserves and some additional areas were notified as 'critical tiger habitats' "without any public input or scientific study at all". Observing that such moves had "already led to conflicts" including mass protests in several states over denial of people's rights to minor forest produce, Raja said "I call upon you to halt this brazen illegality by the central and state governments" and to ensure that the apex court was informed of the actual legal and ground position. "Failing to do so would amount to violating the rights of lakhs of people and ensuring that tiger conservation in this country is once again seen as an excuse by the forest bureaucracy to empower and enrich itself," Raja said. PTI