30 May 2008, 0038 hrs IST,Nitin Sethi,TNN
NEW DELHI: Every agency wants to jump on to the 'tiger crisis' bandwagon. Now the World Bank has 'asked' the Indian government to put in a 'formal request' to it for a loan to save the tigers. It believes that announcing the news of Indian government's proposal could be used to increase the 'visibility' of the "Signature Tiger Event" it is organizing in Washington on June 9, where it plans to rope in celebrities from Hollywood and Bollywood.
The Bank wants to use the event to launch its own programme with tiger-bearing countries to save the striped cat in tandem with governments, corporates and NGOs.
But the proposal from the World Bank has drawn flak from prominent Indian conservationists and scientists. Valmik Thapar, the prominent tiger conservationist, and Ullas Karanth, world's foremost tiger scientist, have slammed the proposal demanding that the Bank should first admit to the damage caused by development and wildlife conservation projects it has supported before offering India money.
Their demand comes especially in the wake of the $60 million eco-development project in some prominent wildlife national parks between 1996 and 2004. The project ran into a huge controversy with the Karnataka high court appointed Lokayukta pointing out huge bungling in funds in the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve as well as illegal chopping of thousands of trees during its implementation. The project had to be finally abandoned half way in Nagarhole.
There is more to the Bank move that has irked the duo. While the US-based Smithsonian National Zoological Park, which is partnering the Bank on the issue, had been asking it for advise on how to go about on a proposal on which the Bank would work, the lending institution went ahead without waiting for completion of deliberations and 'asked' the Indian government to 'request' it for a loan and even suggested a conceptual framework for it.
The Bank's proposal, the tiger experts here have said in correspondence to the Smithsonian officials, "reeks of arrogance", "learns nothing from the past" and "boasts of (its non-existent) past success" in tiger conservation. They point out that the new proposal is similar to the failed, earlier eco-development project.
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