Sunday, May 20, 2007

Growing tiger density prompts Indian state to seek more funds

S. Rajendran

BANGALORE: The Karnataka Government, in the light of rise in the number of tigers in all the four Project Tiger areas — Bandipur, Nagarhole, Anshi-Dandeli and Bhadra — has called upon the Centre to provide adequate funds for tiger conservation efforts apart from giving the State a special status in the tiger conservation activities.

Sources in the Government told The Hindu here on Saturday that Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy had written to the Centre highlighting the State's achievements in tiger conservation and how the Centre could provide funds to the State. The Chief Minister's letter was in response to a letter of the then Union Environment Minister A. Raja calling upon Karnataka to constitute a high-level steering committee to monitor the tiger conservation efforts.

The State Government had expressed its disappointment over the State not finding a place in the newly constituted National Tiger Conservation Authority although it was one of the few States where tiger conservation efforts had been rated high.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in charge of the Forest portfolio and is consequently the chairman of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

In the four tiger reserves in the State, as per January 2006 estimation, the number of tigers is 250.

For a healthy rise in the number of tigers, one tiger requires at least 10 sq km and it is in this context that the State has mentioned that the number of tigers in Bandipur and Nagarhole in particular was high.

At Nagarhole, with an area of over 600 sq km, the number of tigers is nearly 80 and the same is the case in Bandipur, which was spread over 850 sq km.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) A.K. Varma told The Hindu that all the possible protection and conservation measures, within the budgetary constraints, had been taken up in the State's Project Tiger areas.

While each of the Project Tiger reserve requires an annual allocation of Rs. 2 crore, the allocation for all the reserves is about Rs. 3 crore.

The Centre provides funds for permanent protection works in the tiger reserves while the State Government meets the cost for other programmes.

With reference to the direction of the Union Government to constitute a committee for tiger conservation, Mr. Kumaraswamy said a State-level Steering Committee "is being constituted under my chairmanship for ensuring co-ordination, monitoring, protection and conservation of tigers, co-predators and prey animals.

Further, the local people, including tribal groups, have been employed in protection work at the tiger reserves.

All our anti-poaching squads deploy only local villagers and tribal peoples and the services of a large number of them have already been enlisted."

Karnataka is open to any suggestion from the Centre on conservation of the tiger, he added.

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