The Madhya Pradesh Government will have to virtually start from scratch to address the issue of buffer zone around tiger reserves raised by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
Of the six tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh, only Kanha has an administrative buffer zone.
The Prime Minister expressed his concern in letters to Chief Ministers of MP, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra on April 9. The PM's letter came in response to discussions held during a meeting of the National Board for Wildlife he chaired some time back.
However, the letter is yet to be acknowledged by MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Vivek Agrawal, Secretary in the Chief Minister, told HT that the PM's letter has not been received for action yet.
In MP, the forest department initiated process of notification of buffer area under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 around tiger reserves but the progress is not satisfactory.
"There is suspicion in the minds of people as they feel the buffer would curtail their rights," said a senior official. As per law, the buffer has to be notified after concurrence from the gram sabha of the panchayats falling in the area.
The NTCA has kept the inclusion of Ratapani as a tiger reserve on hold since the buffer area has not been notified.
The State Government on Monday transferred the DFO in charge of the buffer and a replacement has not been appointed as yet. The post of DFO Buffer had been lying vacant for many months in 2008 too. Other states like Orissa, Chattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal and have already notified buffers around many tiger reserves.
A total 15 tigers have already died in various reserves since January this year while 66 tigers died in 2009.
State's Forest department sources blamed the Centre for delay in formation of the Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) - the PM's another concern in the letter.
"The proposal for the STPF is with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) since January but the Centre has not sent requisite fund for the purpose", said a senior forest officer, requesting anonymity.
Initially, the STPF is to be set up in Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh Tiger reserves. Each unit having strength of 112 personnel would incur a cost of Rs 3.5 crore annually. The entire cost of the STPF is to be borne by the Union Government.
Last year, the state and the Centre also sparred over meeting expenses for the support staff like the cook, washer man and armourer that are posted along with any unit of such nature. "Having resolved the issue, the proposal was sent to the NTCA in January," said a senior forest department official.