24 Jun, 2007 - 0044 hrs IST
NEW DELHI: The government has given in-principle approval for eight new tiger reserves but they could still be stuck for a while as the state governments are yet to give complete plans for the reserves to the Centre. To push for completion of these plans and conduct a Swot analysis of all tiger habitats before the monsoon sets in, the government has called a meeting of all the heads of the tiger reserves at Ranthambore on June 27 and 28.
The world heritage site, Kaziranga National Park in Assam and Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu will be the two most prominent forest areas to be added to the existing list of 28 tiger reserves in the country. Besides these two, Annamalai and Parambikulum contiguous tiger habitats in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Udanti Sitanadi in Chhattisgargh, Satkosia in Orissa, Achanakmar in Chhattisgarh, Dandeli Anssi in Karnataka and Sanjay National Park and Sanjay Dubai in Madhya Pradesh are the ones to get in-principle approval from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
The two-day meeting to be attended by Union minister of state for environment, Namo Narain Meena, and other top officials from the Centre will discuss the condition of the existing and proposed tiger reserves and what steps should be taken in order to strengthen protection ahead of the monsoon, a season where poaching levels peak.
The meeting comes at a crucial juncture after the ministry had earlier in May botched up while sharing the results of the tiger estimation within the country. With the ministry earlier washing its hands off the dismal figures by calling them ‘unofficial’ figures of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), independent wildlife research institutes had come out strongly demanding that the government own up responsibility. The state governments had come out saying the results were not reflective of the reality.
Even on June 20, the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, the Council for Social Development, and Samrakshan, Delhi — four well known institutions carrying out wildlife research in India — along with NGO Kalpvriksh had written to the Prime Minister demanding that the government put the tiger estimation data and the figures out for public scrutiny and accept that there is a crisis at hand.
In what is bound to be seen as the first clear acceptance of the crisis and the figures emerging out of the new studies, NTCA member secretary Rajesh Gopal told TOI, "There is no issue about not owning up to the figures. The entire estimation process was conceived, designed, implemented, monitored and funded by NTCA. We guided the entire process and the partial results presented by WII were official estimates. The final picture will emerge when the complete results are shared with everyone in December. And they will be shared with the research community, civil society and the media in a transparent manner."
Two senior scientists had been engaged to carry out a pilot project in the Satpura ranges of Madhya Pradesh to test the new methodology before the Tiger Task Force was set up.