India’s first wildlife protection programme — Project Tiger — launched 38 years ago may cease to be if the planning commission’s move to downsize centrally sponsored schemes is accepted.
The panel has asked the environment ministry to merge Project Tiger, initiated by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1973, with other programmes such as the Project Elephant to have one scheme for wildlife protection from the next fiscal. The project was started even before the environment ministry came into existence.
There was need to protect endangered species specific to states, including lions and rhinos, panel’s environment adviser Indrani Chandrasekharan told the ministry.It means that 20 % of the funds meant for wildlife conservation will have to be allocated for protection of state-specific endangered species.
Nine non-official members of the National Board for Wildlife, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, have termed the move retrograde.
“All of us are of a unanimous opinion that such a merger would adversely impact our efforts to conserve... our national animal, the tiger,” the members said in a letter to panel’s deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority, which administers Project Tiger, got more than Rs600 crore in the 11th plan. The effort is said to be one of the main reasons for tiger population seeing an increase in 2011, after witnessing a decline for almost seven years.