This blog is a humble contribution towards increasing awareness about problems being faced wrt Tiger Conservation in India. With the Tiger fast disappearing from the radar and most of us looking the other way the day is not far when the eco system that supports and nourishes us collapses. Citizen voice is an important tool that can prevent the disaster from happening and this is an attempt at channelising the voice of concerned nature lovers.
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Monday, February 18, 2013
Proposed coal mining in tiger corridors gets experts' thumb-down
ByP Naveen, TNN | Feb 17, 2013, 01.56 PM IST
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BHOPAL: Satpura-Maikal landscape of central India-- largest natural habitat of tigers in the world - will no longer remain one big entity, if coal mining is allowed in Madhya Pradesh's Chhindwara district.
Ironically, state forest minister Sartaj Singh finds him in a fix with experts on both sides- those in favour of coal mining or protecting corridor for the sake of striped big cat population-divided on the issue.
Proposed coal mines, widening of NH-7 and railway line that cuts across the tiger reserves would impede gene flow and impact the future of species, reveals a recent research conducted by two scientists from the state, associated with Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), Washington.
"Big cat populations will be divided into groups if their habitat is fragmented. It can lead to inbreeding and a genetic bottleneck, which will affect their long-term survival," says Dr Sandeep Sharma, visiting scholar of SCBI and lead author of the tiger study published in the journal 'Ecology and Evolution'.
SCBI researchers found the landscape is still genetically connected and shows that tigers have been moving around. It was found that the tiger meta-population in this landscape has high genetic variation and very low genetic subdivision.
Faecal samples were used to analyse the genetics of tiger and leopard populations in four reserves in central India: Satpura, Melghat, Pench and Kanha. Kanha and Pench reserves and Satpura and Melghat reserves are connected via forest corridors that tigers, leopards, humans and cattle share. It was found that both tiger and leopard population in the reserve maintained a high level of genetic diversity.
Neither tigers nor leopards were genetically distinct with leopards being one exception, which scientists hope to explain with additional research.
Dr Trishna Dutta, SCBI visiting student and lead author of the leopard study published in the journal Diversity and Distributions, says, "Conserving a whole landscape, rather than piecemeal protected areas, would ensure a better chance for long-term persistence of these and other species."
The scientists investigated spatial genetic structure of the tiger meta-population in the Satpura-Maikal landscape using the genetic data from 273 individual tigers and 217 leopards.
In addition to Sharma and Dutta, other authors of the paper are Dr Jesus Maldonado, a research geneticist at SCBI's Centre for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics, Dr John Seidensticker, head of SCBI Conservation Ecology Centre and H S Panwar, former director, Project Tiger and Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.
MoEF additional director general of forest (ADG) A K Shrivastava and assistant inspector general (AIG) H C Chaudhary visited Chhindwara last week to study the impact of proposed mines on the landscape.
They would submit their report to the fact assessment committee (FAC), said sources. principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) P K Shukla and other officers refused to comment on the status of mines.
The biggest threat to forests in the central Indian landscape, the largest habitat for tigers and home to protected tribal communities is coal mining. The PMO office is directly responsible for attempting to dilute laws to hasten habitat destruction, and ignore legally established rights of communities.
"The issue came to my notice. I think both coal mines and corridors are equally important, coal for power and corridors for tiger. I won't be able to comment more on it now" Sartaj Singh, forest minister, said.
"I have yet to come across recommendations made by our department. However, it's for the Centre to decide. We are taking all initiatives to protect the corridors" P K Shukla, chief wildlife warden and principal chief conservator of India (PCCF), MP.
"SCBI is creating new working models to retain wild tigers in the face of massive social and economic change in Asia, which is among the most difficult challenges,"Dr John Seidensticker, head of SCBI Conservation Ecology Centre, Washington.
"The PMO office has much to answer for. They claim environmental roadblocks are holding up coal production. After the coal scam, it is clear that it is a blatant lie,"Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace campaigner.