New Delhi, Aug. 29 (PTI): The ambitious Project Tiger programme of the Centre has come in for sharp criticism from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) which found that many tiger reserves do not even adhere to the prescribed norms for a core area or the protected zone of a sanctuary.
While the norms for tiger reserves prescribe an average area of 1,500 sq km with at least 300 sq km as the core area, the CAG report for 2005 found that 15 of the 28 tiger reserves spanned over less than 720 sq km.
Six of these 15 tiger reserves had a core area of less than the prescribed 300 sq km, it said noting that such discrepancies existed despite the knowledge that tiger population breeds well and grows rapidly in protected areas.
The CAG found that human settlements existed in the core areas in half of the tiger reserves, including Ranthambore, Sariska, Panna and Pench.
The result has been an increase of just 20 tigers in 18 years in 15 tiger reserves created upto 1984.
The Project Tiger Directorate (PTD) admitted that human settlements disturb tigers but said the areas were brought under the project considering the threat to the tiger population there.
The CAG also pulled up the PTD and the concerned state governments for the delay in notifying the tiger reserves as National Parks, which provides for a legal basis for ensuring protection.
"In many tiger reserves the final declaration procedures of National Part (core) and sanctuary (buffer) were pending even as of March 2006 even though the amended Wildlife (Protection) Act, 2003 set the time limit for completion of acquisition proceedings," it said.