Rising population increases man-tiger conflict
Rachna Singh, TNN, Aug 19, 2010, 03.33am IST
JAIPUR: Human intervention in the tiger reserve is proving costly with a third man being mauled by the animal in Ranthambore in four months.
In fact, several efforts by the government towards tiger conservation and for creating a sustainable habitat for the animal have failed to yield result despite several crores spent on the project. The project has not helped the villages around the reserve.
According to Dharmendra Khandal, conservation biologist, Tiger Watch, an NGO: "There is very large grazing pressure on the reserve. July to October is the most problematic period since most of the cattle of nearby villages move into the reserve forest. The villagers also persistently attempt to invade into the core area. Besides, due to heavy grazing pressure it has not been possible to constitute core areas for Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary and Kailadevi Sanctuary. The recurrent conflict with villagers regarding grazing in the Ranthambore National Park has also alienated the villagers from the management."
According to Project Tiger Reserves, funded by the Centre,, "There were 3,177 cattle units in four villages in the core and around 25,000 cattle units in 19 villages in the buffer as per 1991 census. There were around 1.43 lakh cattle units in 332 villages within five kilometre radius of the reserve. The growth rate has been approximately 2%. Besides, there were 1,210 people in four ges in the core and 3,055 people in 19 villages in the buffer as per 1991 census. There were around one lakh people in 332 villages within 5 km radius of the reserve. The growth rate has been approximately 2.8%."
But over the years, human population around the park has increased manifold. If earlier the villages outside had a lot of pastureland for cattle, now all that is encroached upon by the villagers or land dealers.
"The first step by the government should be to clear the pastureland in Ranthambore. The changed trend in the last few years is that villagers who had one or two buffaloes now on individual basis own about 100-150 goats that are more economically viable. And they all go grazing in the forest," said Khandal.
According to estimates, nearly 300-500 bighas of pastureland in the villages that has been encroached upon. Add to that, some prominent hotels have also been allotted land. Even Monday morning after the incident, about 1,500 cattle were in the park grazing.
Now talking of wood felling, the government distributed 10,000 gas cylinders among the villagers almost nine years ago to stop villagers from chopping wood for fuel.
"These were provided at a subsidy of Rs 300 inclusive of the gas stove. But the villagers sold it out for Rs 1,000-1500 and still frequent the National Park to collect wood for fuel," said Khandal. As an alternative, biogas was thought to be a substitute. But out of the 560 bio gas plants about 100-150 are not functional and the existing ones fall extremely short for a growing population of about 1.5 lakh villagers.
The over 100 cr Eco-development Project (GEF-World Bank) implemented in 2003-04 also failed to change the way communities live around the park. As a part of the project Village Eco-development Programme' from the 36 villages about 20-22 village eco-development committees were made. Part of the project money was used to build walls around the park to check the menace of grazing and wood-cutting. "But they are mere psychological barriers now. The villagers intentionally left gaps in the walls to walk in and out of the forest," said a hotelier.
And with things as they stand, villagers will continue to frequent the park and despite forest guards, chances of a mishap cannot be ruled out.