Monday, June 19, 2006

What tiger crisis?

What tiger crisis?

 

Ministry’s own audit says 26 of 28 reserves doing fine

Jay MazoomdaarPosted online: Tuesday, June 20, 2006 at 0000 hrs Print  Email

 

NEW DELHI, JUNE 19:The tiger is going through its worst crisis ever, the Supreme Court, the PMO, the CBI and the dwindling numbers agree. But not the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

 

Barely weeks after it said that the ongoing tiger census will take one more year, the Ministry today told the Prime Minister that its “independent” audit has found that all’s well with almost all of the tiger reserves.

 

The audit comes at a time when the Ministry is also actively resisting a PMO move to create a separate department for wildlife and forest.

 

At a stormy meeting of the National Board of Wildlife—the apex advisory body on wildlife—chaired by the Prime Minister, the Ministry claimed that its audit by retired officials found 19 of 28 tiger reserves in either “very good” or “good” condition.

 

Of the remaining nine, seven were found “satisfactory”. The two “poor” exceptions were Sariska—where the last tiger has been poached—and Indravati, where Naxals don’t allow anyone in.

 

After this presentation, Project Tiger director Rajesh Gopal promised to place the full report before Parliament in the coming monsoon session.

 

The ministry’s auditors found troubled reserves like Panna or Buxa in “good” health. In West Bengal, Buxa is a disturbed zone with estimates putting the number at zero or merely one. Panna in Madhya Pradesh is infamous for rapid loss of tigers, the latest being three deaths in last two months.

 

Intense media glare on Ranthambhore, however, pushed down the reserve’s rating but was still termed “satisfactory”. As expected, Kanha topped the chart.

 

Meanwhile, the Ministry is stalling key reforms. Last month, the PMO asked Secretary Pradipto Ghosh to submit a proposal for creating two departments—one for wildlife and forests, and another for environment. It’s gathering dust. Another note was issued last week by the PMO asking the Ministry to hurry up and set a July deadline.

 

“The proposal may include a draft amendment in the Allocation of Business Rules...and be routed though the Cabinet Secretary for the Prime Minister’s approval before the end of July,’’ it read.

 

The proposed departments will function under same minister but with different Secretaries. What has made the Ministry’s top brass wary, sources said, is the suggestion of considering ‘‘Indian Forest Service officers for senior policy-making positions.’’ Also, officials are against the PMO idea of a separate National Park Service fearing loss of turf.

 

Earlier, at today’s meeting, there were chaotic scenes with members accusing Ministry officials of keeping them out of the loop on policy issues. This prompted an angry PM to call for “better communication among members and ministry officials.”

 

jay.mazoomdar@expressindia.com

 

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