Mahabaleshwar farmers oppose tiger reserve
PUNE: Thousands of farmers in Mahabaleshwargathered on Sunday afternoon to oppose the Sahyadri Tiger Project, which was initiated last year by combining the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary and Chandoli National Park in Satara as they fear it would hamper developmental activities. The meeting was held at Taldeo village, about 15 kms from Mahabaleshwar.
Balasaheb Bhilare, member of the Satara Zilla Parishad, said, “The tiger reserve project is most likely to affect people of Patan, Javali and Mahabaleshwar. For us, the only source of income is farming and tourism. If our lands are marked under the reserve, farming activities will stop and the affected families will have to find new sources of income.”
The villagers also posed the question of security before the guardian minister. Bhilare said, “What security would villagers around the reserve get? They will be most exposed to the reserve and if animals walk into the village, it will pose a danger to them.”
The conservation plan, which was declared by the state government last year, will come up in an area of 740.5 sq km spread across the districts of Satara, Ratnagiri, Kolhapur and Sangli. The tiger reserve will focus on conservation of habitat, breeding of tigers and ensure food and water availability for tigers.
Pramod Shelar, president of the Mahabaleshwar Taluka Sarpanch Sanghtna, said, “When farmers and villagers need to construct a house, there are several restrictions imposed. At the same time, the government is giving space for animals when human populations are multiplying every year. The government has still not relocated villagers displaced by the Koyna dam. The same situation will prevail with the tiger project as well.”
The land for the reserve is divided into buffer and core areas. The core area will not have human habitation, while in the buffer areas animals and humans can coexist. The reserve includes 83 villages in both the sanctuaries that cover four districts – Satara, Ratnagiri, Kolhapur and Sangli. Many villagers have already been shifted and the remaining will be relocated soon.
Meanwhile, Nimbalkar has assured villagers that the issues will be taken up and discussed with the government and a solution will be arrived at after a proper study.