The uproar over the reducing tiger population in Rajasthan refuses to die down, with the latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India indicting the state government for the sorry state of affairs.
In its report tabled in the state assembly recently, the CAG has said the tiger population reduced drastically — from 47 in 2004 to 26 in 2005 in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, and from 16 to zero in the Sariska Tiger Reserve.
'This showed complete failure of the project authorities and monitoring at government level,' the audit report says. It adds that the concerned authorities had totally failed in checking poaching and encroachment on forestland.
During January 2003-March 2005, no tiger poaching was registered in either Sariska or Ranthambore, even though the tiger population had declined drastically.
Project Tiger was launched in 1973 as a centrally sponsored scheme. Within Rajasthan, Ranthambore and Sariska tiger reserves were covered with a view to conserving tigers and preserving the eco-system.
'The objective of saving the tigers from imminent extinction seems far from realisation as effective measures to stop degradation and fragmentation of the habitats were not taken during 2000-2006,' says the CAG report.
'This review revealed that there were delays in preparation of management plan and transfer of funds, failure in fixing time schedules for achieving targets and improper management of tiger reserves,' the report adds.
According to the report, specific provisions to develop undisturbed breeding sites by reducing heavy tourist pressure in the core areas were not made.
Commercial activities such as the establishment of hotels were totally banned in December 2002 within a radius of 500 meters from the boundary of the park area. Scrutiny revealed that 13 hotels were located within 500 meters in Ranthambore and five in Sariska, said the report.
Two Rajasthan Tourism Development Corp hotels, one each in Ranthambore and Sariska, exist within the protected area (PA). No concrete action seemed to have been initiated at the state level to close down these hotels or commercial institutions.
The reserves have witnessed depletion of habitats because of collection of timber and fuel wood inside the PAs and degradation of the forest areas as villagers depended upon the forest resources.
To minimise the negative impact of these villages on the PAs, relocation of these villages was essential.
Of the four villages at Ranthambore, the relocation package of only one village, Padra, was prepared and sanctioned in August 2001 for Rs.14.6 million by the state government. This was to be completed by March 2003.
Scrutiny revealed that of the 111 families, only 59 were relocated after incurring an expenditure of Rs.9.07 million as of March 2006.
The remaining 52 families could not be relocated due to allotment of unsuitable agricultural land and delays in construction of houses for them, the CAG report says.
The report adds that there was insufficient availability of communication network equipment and arms for protection of wildlife in the tiger reserves.