Wildlife experts and environmentalists have renewed their demand for a thorough investigation on why some tigers were leaving Ratapani wildlife sanctuary, some 40 km away, and coming into the state capital Bhopal. They are also seeking a long-term strategy to deal with the ongoing man-tiger conflict in Bhopal an end to the inordinate delay in the creation of Ratapani Tiger Reserve.
‘Ways ought to be found on how to keep tigers inside the protected sanctuary’
Speaking to HT, retired principal chief conservator of forests HS Pabla, who met senior wildlife officials on Saturday, said that for the long-term solution, the route that tigers were following from Ratapani should be identified and fencing should be done to stop their movement towards Bhopal. Also, ways ought to be found on how to keep tigers inside the protected sanctuary. On whether creation of the Ratapani tiger reserve would help, he said it was a good idea from the wildlife perspective, but looking from the perspective of people living in Bhopal, it will lead to more tigers moving close to the city.
‘Restricting movement of people only short-term measure’
According to experts, enforcing section 144 in the Kerwa area during night time and restricting movement of people were mere short-term measures as tiger straying would continue as they don’t understand such restrictions. “Two issues need to be studied for the long-term solution. First, what was leading to the movement of tigers into Kerwa and Kaliasote areas and the continuous narrow corridor right up to Ratapani sanctuary. Was this corridor used by tigers in the past as there are water bodies in this corridor which could have attracted the big cats for hunting and quenching their thirst? Second, the authorities should look into how constructions came up in the corridor and why the area was not protected by authorities if it has been used by the tigers in the past,” said environmentalist Subash Pandey.
‘Narrow corridor from Ratapani to Bhopal should be declared a conservation reserve unit’
Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey said Kaliasote, Kerwa and Kathotoya areas in the narrow corridor from Ratapani to Bhopal should be declared a conservation reserve unit. He said a proposal in this regard was pending with the state government since 2011. “Authorities should also investigate how Rs 00 crore worth of construction of institutions, farmlands, residential structures...have come up in the Kerwa belt, and whether they had sought environmental and other related clearances. Over 5,000 people, including students, go into the Kerwa belt on a daily basis. What happens to the huge waste generated by all of them? Also, my suggestion is rescue team of the wildlife department should be properly trained in handling of wild tigers and the captured tigers should not be shunned away to other habitats of the state,” suggested Dubey, who has filed a petition in the state high court on tigers in Bhopal. The case will be heard on November 16, according to him.
What the wildlife department has to say?
Speaking to HT, principal chief conservator of forests Narendra Kumar said they convened a meeting of retired wildlife officials on Saturday to seek their suggestions for a long-term solution to check the conflict between man and tiger. “Our officials have enough expertise. They are monitoring the situation and studying the reasons behind the tiger movement. If tigers are coming into human habitations, I have to take tough decisions regarding their capture and shifting. We can’t wait for a situation to develop where a tiger starts attacking people in Bhopal,” he said.
Background of the conflict in Bhopal
Bhopal is perhaps the only city in the country that has wild tigers in populated areas within 5 km of the city. Reports on tiger sightings have prompted a large number of people from the city to visit Kerwa and Kaliasote areas in the hope of catching a glimpse of the striped cat. Kerwa area already has a number of human habitations and educational institutions, which are visited by a large number of people every day.
Traditionally, the forests around Kerwa have been home to tigers. For about two decades in the ’90s and 2000s, tiger presence was not recorded in the area, but with their population increasing in the Ratapani reserve, spill-over population of tigers made a comeback in the area in 2010.
Presently, tigers T1, T211, T212, T213 and tigress T2 are operating in Kerwa, Bilquisganj and Birpur areas of Bhopal and Sehore districts. Besides, tigress T21 with four cubs is also operating in the same area stretching from Mendora village, about 5 km from the densely populated Kotra Sultanabad area of Bhopal city to Birpur covering an entire area of about 300 sq km. The area has about 20 villages as well.