|Ramesh reaches out to States to save tiger
July 27, 2009
Prerna Singh Bindra | Sariska Tiger Reserve
all-India conference of tiger reserve directors, held here on July
25-26, marked a new chapter in big cat conservation. The conclave made
a sincere effort to end the chasm between the Centre and States on the
critical issue of tiger conservation, which largely stems from
non-compliance by States of important initiatives. The meeting’s
objective was to understand the problems faced by tiger reserve
directors and address their concerns.
Reiterating that his
Government was committed to protecting tigers, Union Minister of State
for Environment & Forests Jairam Ramesh said that the Centre and
States must work together in this endeavour. He also urged the States
to sign a tripartite agreement to ensure accountability and efficient
utilisation of funds.
He announced that the new All India
Estimates of Tigers will commence in September 2009 and the deadline
for submitting its findings was fixed for October next year, when India
hosts the World Tiger Summit at Ranthambore. The estimation exercise
will primarily be the responsibility of the Wildlife Institute of
India, with help from certain NGOs. By March 2010, the WII will also
complete a comprehensive assessment of the tiger reserves.
also said there was a move to amend the wildlife protection Act for
including stringent penalties that would serve as a major deterrent to
poachers. Stressing the importance of good intelligence systems and
application of science in solving wildlife crime, the Minister said
that the crackdown on poaching in the Gir lion case was an example to
be learnt from and followed.
He also threw light on the Rs
11,000-crore Compulsory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning
Authority (CAMPA), through which Rs 1,000 crore will be released every
year to the States on pro-rata basis. He underlined that the fund was
not for afforestation but for wildlife protection, staff empowerment,
restoration and regeneration of degraded forests and for meeting
financial needs of protected areas, besides the tiger reserves.
focus was given to problems of the 16 poor-category reserves, and
increased assistance promised in terms of funds and technical support
from the Centre. Given the poor condition of the frontline staff across
the reserves, the Minister announced that their field allowance would
Speaking on the controversial issue of the INO
observatory coming up on the edge of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Ramesh said he had refused clearance
considering the disturbance it would entail on this critical tiger and
elephant corridor. However, he stressed that the project was important,
and his Ministry would extend all support to help locate alternatives.
announced that a committee had been constituted to assess the
continuing Maoist problem in Simlipal Tiger Reserve in Orissa. A
similar assessment was essential in other Naxal-affected reserves like
Palamau and Indravati, he pointed out.
Critical concerns like
man-tiger conflict, forest fires, tiger and elephant mortality by
trains and roads, use of microlight aircraft for surveillance and
setting up of a Special Tiger Protection Force also came up for
‘Radio collaring to continue’
controversy came to the fore during the conference of tiger reserve
directors, with the State saying that it was not to be blamed alone.
Chief Wildlife Warden Dr HS Pabla said the Centre had rated the park as
“good and well-managed” in 2005-2006, and not warned the State of the
unfolding debacle. Saying that Panna was a well-protected park, he
faulted the SIT report that said, “Poaching was a major cause for local
tiger extinction in Panna, and it cannot be compared with Sariska
because warning bells were sounded (there) regularly for the last eight
Alerts on Panna's increasingly alarming situation have
repeatedly been conveyed to the State by the Ministry of Environment
and Forests, besides scientists. The NTCA had also advised the State to
hand over the inquiry of tiger poaching cases involving Panna to the
Significantly, the Central Empowered Committee of the
Supreme Court visited the reserve and reported in February 2005, “Panna
is showing signs of (becoming a) Sariska. It is necessary to set it
right before it is too late. Otherwise, the tiger will never recover
However, the Minister said there did not appear to be an
“authentic documentation” of the experience of Panna’s tiger
extinction. Given that the controversy refused to die down, he
announced that an impartial committee would be set up with the purpose
of giving a definitive account of the causes behind the Panna fiasco.
The possibility of employing the CBI was also considered.
Minister also made a clarification regarding reports in the media that
“radio collaring was killing Panna tigers”. He explained that this was
“the opinion of an individual” that had been put up for consideration.
He stressed that radio collaring was a necessary conservation tool
practised the world over and India was going to continue using it.