27 August 2006
Rate of increase of tiger population reflects ineffectiveness of measures taken
Pugmark method for tiger census not foolproof
Personnel under-trained, poorly equipped
No tourist management plans in tiger reserves
NEW DELHI: The Comptroller and Auditor General has criticised the Centre for the way it managed Project Tiger, a Centrally-sponsored scheme launched in 1973 to protect tigers and to ensure a viable population of them in the country.
In the 15 Tiger Reserves created up to 1984, the number of tigers increased from 1,121 in 1984 to 1,141 in 2001-02, a rate of increase that highlighted the ineffectiveness of the measures taken. During the same period, the overall tiger population in the country declined from 3,623 to 2,906.
The census of tigers was generally carried out by counting pugmarks not considered a foolproof methodology and was not conducted annually in most of the Tiger Reserves, according to the CAG's report.
The implementation of the project was severely hampered by understaffing. The personnel employed were overage, under-trained and under-equipped in many cases, besides having a weak communication and intelligence network. Many tiger reserves neither prepared tourist management plans nor assessed the tourist carrying capacity of the reserves despite guidelines issued by the Project Tiger Directorate. The conflict between promotion of tourism and earning of revenue on the one hand and ecological protection of the tiger habitat on the other was thus not resolved, it said.
The activities on the ground were very often dictated by the immediate needs of the project and the funds released by the Government. The State Governments did not, in many cases, release their share of funds. Cases of diversion of Central funds for other purposes were also noticed during audit.
The actual area of 15 of the 28 Tiger Reserves was mostly less than the prescribed area of 1,500 sq km — definitely not conducive for conservation, protection and sustenance of a viable tiger population. Besides, the report said, the boundaries of many of the Tiger Reserves had not been demarcated nor the areas falling within the Tiger Reserves notified legally.
The Project Tiger Directorate did not have the means to undertake any monitoring of the implementation of the project. It had only seven personnel including non-ministerial staff and could not even process the periodical reports and returns received from the Tiger Reserves.
Lack of resources
Relocation of the people living within the Tiger Reserves as well as removal and prevention of encroachment was essential to ease the biotic pressure on the tiger population, the report said. Efforts in this direction did not succeed primarily because of lack of resources. Against the requirement of around Rs.11,000 crore to relocate 64,951 families living within the Tiger Reserves, the allocation in the Tenth Five Year Plan was a meagre Rs.10.50 crore.
The CAG has suggested that all Tiger Reserves should have a well-formulated management plan for appropriate allocation of resources.
It suggested that the Government make a firm commitment to relocate the local families and villages from the core and buffer areas of the Tiger Reserves and draw a comprehensive resettlement plan.