OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Lucknow, March 2: Villagers living in Dudhwa National Park will have to move out to save the tiger, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided.
“We cannot possibly tie the tigers to trees to stop them from running into neighbouring villages. It is more practicable to relocate the villagers from the forest areas,” said P.P. Singh, the park’s additional field director.
Ten villages in the 1,093sqkm park, about 170km from here, will be vacated and their 1,500 residents moved to 100 villages. Singh said the state government would provide adequate compensation to the affected families, who have been living there for over a decade. Work on the relocation will begin this month.
“There may be initial bursts of anger and protests by villagers. But we have to gradually convince the villagers to shift. We are left with no other option in our fight to save tigers,” a park official said.
The park in Lakhimpur-Kheri district, which is home to 175 tigers and is known for its grasslands, marshes, lakes and sal forests, has suffered as a result of human encroachment in recent years.
Its prey base has depleted because of extraction of forest produce by villagers and grazing by their cattle, said V.P. Singh, a former park director who runs the NGO Terai Nature Conservation.
“All that is left in large stretches of the wildlife habitat are exotic plants like lantana and parthenium. This has forced herbivores to look for grass in paddy fields near the villages,” Singh said, adding that tigers have been following their prey.
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