Project Tiger Division

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 Further, eight potential areas in the country have also

been identified for subsequent inclusion under “Project Tiger”.

Project Tiger is an ecosystem based conservation support project in which an optimum

presence of tiger indicates that the complex ecosystem is in its prime health. The outlay

of assistance provided to the States under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project

Tiger was Rs 75 crores in IX Five Year Plan which has been enhanced to Rs 150 crores

in the X Five Year Plan with the part-merger of the ongoing C.S.S., “Eco-development of

National Parks and Sanctuaries including Tiger Reserves” and the C.S.S. “Beneficiary

Oriented Tribal Development”. Complementary inputs for eco-development and

voluntary village relocation provided earlier in separate projects have now been merged

with Project Tiger as an Umbrella Scheme.

Under the ongoing externally aided “India Eco-development Project”, as many as 572

eco-development committees have been formed in seven Protected Areas covering

75,600 families, to reduce the dependency of local people on Protected Area resources,

with reciprocal commitments.

Initiatives have been taken for evolving a trans-boundary cooperation protocol with

Bangladesh.

Information and communication technology is being used for linking important tiger

reserves in the GIS Domain for evolving a management support system and crime

detection, dissemination of information through the web and involving a ‘National Tiger

Monitoring and Habitat Evaluation System’ with regional protocols.

“Project Allowance” has been provided under the scheme to field staff working in tiger

reserves. 100% Central Assistance is provided for deploying anti-poaching strike squads

in Tiger Reserves, apart from expenditure relating to research, veterinary, monitoring and

evaluation, compensation to the legal heir of staff / person killed while performing duty,

and for monitoring of tiger population. The threat to the tiger is from poaching, to avenge

livestock killed, for international trade in its skins, bones and other body parts and due to

reduction of undisturbed habitat and the prey base. The tiger population in the country

currently stands estimated at 3642, as per 2001- 02 estimate. The impact of Project Tiger

is also visible in the form of arresting soil erosion, recharging of ground water regime and

enrichment of forest cover in the tiger reserves. Despite recent tiger population reverses,

the Project is recognized as a role model for wildlife conservation. As per a recent report

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in the media, Project Tiger has been rated as one of the 56 events that changed India since

independence.

The project, which was a pioneering effort of a unique kind, has shown how a megaspecies

could be used to create support for diverse and representative ecosystem

conservation, which can and has conserved water, soil, faunal and floral biodiversity and

wilderness.

9.2.3.1 The Tiger Task Force Report

Following the uproar caused by the news that the national animal had disappeared from

one of the Tiger Reserves, namely Sariska in Rajasthan, the Chairman of the National

Board for Wildlife and the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, set up a Task

Force to assess the situation vis-a-vis Project Tiger and to submit a time-bound report.

Sariska was a crisis waiting to happen and it is bound to occur e1sewhere if matters are

not rectified. It also brought into limelight the prevalent situation with regard to wildlife

conservation in the country, for if this be the situation in one of the oldest reserves of the

prime project initiated by the Government for the conservation of the tiger in particular

and of nature in general, one can assess the situation in “lesser” parks and wildlife

sanctuaries, not to speak of other habitats and of wildlife in the country. Nature

conservation efforts unfortunately, have historically always flowed from the ‘top’: the

British, the princes, and a couple of Prime Ministers. The conservation movement has not

taken root in rural areas and even in the urban areas outside a segment of society.

Considering the short time given for the task, ‘Joining the Dots’ is a very well presented

and fairly comprehensive report with a number of appropriate suggestions, some known,

others brought into greater focus than before. Some of the notable recommendations

cover institutional mechanisms such as creation of two separate departments of

Environment and of Forests and Wildlife within the MoEF and the creation of a subcadre

of wildlife specialists and professionals within the forestry services, which this

report also stresses upon. It recommends greater powers to the Project Tiger Directorate

and periodic independent audit of each reserve; recruitment of local personnel to man the

PAs; the traditional hunting tribes and communities living in and around PAs to be

integrated in the conservation efforts and the people to be provided alternatives, relaxing

minimum educational qualifications, if required; protection by security forces of any

reserves threatened by insurgency; a focus on control over wildlife crime including a

special bureau to deal with this menace; development of forensic facilities to assist the

bureau; a closer bilateral relationship to be built up with China to combat illegal trade;

the introduction of a more scientific method of estimating tiger population and

monitoring the habitat; a greater emphasis on research to assist better conservation; an

urgent and realistic review of villages and people that need to be relocated from Tiger

Reserves and of assuring acceptable and beneficial relocation; need of deve1oping

linkages with the local people to help both the people and wildlife to co-exist, including

payment of compensation; and regulation and management of tourism so that it would

assist conservation and not be in conflict with it. It also advocates for the payment for

ecological conservation rendered by tiger reserves. The NFC endorses these

recommendations.

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There are certain aspects of the report with which the NFC is not in agreement with, as is

evident from the text of this report. There are also certain omissions and some inadequate

assessment of the different dimensions of some of the topics raised in the report

The Task Force Report wants to have “empirical evidence that the use of habitats by

people is endangering conservation efforts”. Any rational person can assess for himself

the degree of demographic impact by comparing the qualitative and quantitative

difference in the biota in the unexploited core area of a national park such as Kanha,

which the Task Force visited, and that surrounding the villages on the periphery of Kanha

Tiger Reserve. Indeed, it is pertinent to know that when the sal borer epidemic struck the

forests around Kanha, lakhs of trees died but the core area of Kanha, which is not

demographically impacted, had hardly any infestation. This is because the trees in the

reserve had the vigour to resist the infestation and the vigour was there because of the

lack of biotic and edaphic pressure on the core area. The sal die off was even more

prevalent around the inhabited areas than in areas farther from human habitation. The

Tiger Reserves which the task force visited and saw tigers were those in which human

habitations have been relocated. If the Task Force had visited the much more problematic

ones where there is a greater demographic impact such as Indravati in Chhattisgarh,

Nagarjunasagar -Srisailam in Andhra, Palamau in Jharkhand and Simlipal in Orissa, the

opinion formed may have been different in this regard. In some states like Rajasthan and

Gujarat, practically no forests worth the name survive outside the effectively managed

protected areas. It must be accepted that forest dwelling communities of today cannot be

kept in idyllic isolation and may well exploit forest for commercial purposes and not just

for survival.

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