CNN-IBN Focus: What can be done to protect tigers
Published on Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 23:29, Updated on Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 23:47 in India section
The special focus on CNN-IBN on Thursday was India’s disappearing tigers. Tigers have gone extinct at the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. In fact, they went extinct years ago but it took the government nearly four years time to admit it. What is going wrong and what is the way forward? To answer the big question: Where are the tigers in India, CNN-IBN spoke to MoS, Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh.
CNN-IBN: What action do you propose to take to set right what happened in Panna?
Jairam Ramesh: I am waiting for the report of the SIT. I have been assured by my colleagues in the NTCA that we will have the report of this task force by the end of the month and we will fix responsibility on why this happened. And accountability must be fixed, who is responsible? Obviously there are poachers, poachers can’t successfully operate without some inside information. There is an insider job here. So we will look at this. I will talk to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh is the number one state in tiger population in India and it’s sad that tigers have gone extinct in a tiger sanctuary like Panna – where there were six to seven tigers to begin with. Well there are different numbers floating number. Whatever it is, a tiger sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh not having tigers is a cause for great concern after all it is the epicenter of tiger population.
CNN-IBN: How do we ensure that we have a modern enforcement system in place to make sure poaching does not occur in national parks?
Jairam Ramesh: Well we can’t control the demand but we can control the supply. I can’t control the demand for aphrodisiacs which apparently are based on the ability of the poachers to supply parts of the tiger’s anatomy, but what we can control is the supply and beef up the security in the Project Tiger area. That is very important. I think we should bring modern electronic sensor based technology for monitoring. The Government of India has a proposal for a special police force, but I don’t entirely subscribe to the idea of creating a separate battalion of police people to maintain security in the Project Tiger areas. I would rather involve the local communities. For example I was in Corbett recently and I interacted with the ‘Vana Gujjars’ who I believe will be far more effective protectors of the Corbett area than policemen being transplanted from somewhere else.
CNN-IBN: 1000 projects have been cleared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest and not one has been rejected? How will your Ministry ensure that infrastructure projects don’t come up in tiger reserves?
Jairam Ramesh: I don’t think you can say that we should have roads in forest areas or we can’t under any circumstances allow roads. We have got to find a balance. I, for example, on the trench Kahna issue have asked for an alternative alignment to be studied. I think in many of the proposals that come to me for clearance, like for example for divergence of forest areas, people don’t come with any alternative scenarios.
CNN-IBN: To end with sir, what is the way forward now?
Jairam Ramesh: I think the time has come to look at the project tiger in its larger eco-context. Project Tiger today accounts for 6 per cent of India’s forest area so its not tiger but its forest, the ecosystem, the watersheds. If I were to rename Project Tiger I would call it Project Eco-system. I know its far more colorful to call it Project Tiger, but I think the mistake we have made made perhaps in retrospect is to think of Project Tiger as only tiger. The tiger symbolises the forest just like the snow leopards symbolises the mountains, or the cheetah once upon a time symbolised the grasslands.