Govt apathy hinders Sariska tigers’ safety

December 27, 2010 11:36:31 AM
Moushumi Basu New Delhi

Close on the heels of a controversy over relocation of villages from Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan and the death of a translocated tiger there recently, the Centre has allotted Rs 18.60 crore to the tiger reserve.

Against a demand of Rs 38.13 crore from the State Government, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has approved Rs 37.20 crore to the reserve for shifting of villages. According to figures obtained from MoEF sources, no fund allocation was made in 2009-10 and till the end of the current fiscal for the relocation of villages in Sariska.

Former chief conservator of forests (Sariska) KK Garg, who was transferred out during the last week of November after the tiger’s death, said, “Nearly Rs 8 crore were left unspent from the earlier funds, and the amount was fully spent by June-July 2010.” After that, the relocation process was affected due to paucity of funds, he pointed out. The next lot of funds arrived after Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh visited the reserve following the death of the tiger.

Following the complete extinction of tigers in Sariska, a major recommendation of Tiger Task Force in 2005 was the relocation of villages from within the reserve. There are 28 villages within the tiger reserve and the task force had listed certain villages that were to be relocated on priority.

The MoEF sources pointed out that the State had not been successful in following the task force’s recommendations, particularly the one about making the core/critical areas of the tiger habitat inviolate by expediting village relocation.

There has been only token relocation in Sariska. “Only one village, Badhani, the smallest of them all, has been relocated completely since the process began in the 1980s,” the sources said. The remaining six-seven villages, though claimed by the State forest department as partial, are actually only nominal and are inhabited by only a handful of families.

Former field director of Ranthambhore and tiger expert Fateh Singh Rathore contended that village relocation should have been completed before the tiger translocation process started. “The reserve is obviously not safe for big cats and one cannot blame the local villagers solely for the recent incident of tiger poisoning,” he said.

Tigers often stray to the villages and the State Government has failed to keep track of the damage caused to the villagers and compensation to be paid.

Meanwhile, five tigers were translocated from Ranthambhore National Park in the State to Sariska between 2008 and 2010. One of the two males — ST-1 — went missing on November 11 this year. The other male — ST-4 — was already missing since October 30, though it has since been found. On November 14, reserve officials discovered the decomposed body of ST-1 near Kalakhet village on the reserve’s fringes.

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