BUOYED BY the high-rankings awarded to five national parks of Madhya Pradesh — including Panna – in a recent Project Tiger evaluation report by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), MP Forest Department officials feel their stand against an earlier report of the Supreme Court’s Empowered Committee has been vindicated.
Criticising Panna National Park’s mismanagement the committee had predicted in 2005 that it would meet the fate of Sariska Sanctuary in Rajasthan in the near future.
The MoEF-IUCN survey – tabled during Parliament’s recent monsoon session — emphasised 45 criteria and some more sub-parameters for evaluating 28 Project Tiger Reserves and National Parks across India. Issues like legal status, poaching, planning, encroachment status, monitoring, tourism, restoration, input, process and output were some of the crucial
parameters of the survey.
Of the maximum 185 points on the scale, the evaluators – A S Negi and S K Chakrabarti awarded 135 points to Panna Tiger Reserve, placing it in the ‘very good’ category.
The reserve also achieved ninth position overall in the country. MP’s Kanha Tiger Reserve – with 165 points — was adjudged the best in the country in the same survey while Sariska finished last with just 61 points..
The Supreme Court’s committee – chaired by P V Jayakrishna had visited Panna National Park on May 18, 2004, and then during February 7-8, 2005. Valmik Thapar and Mahendra Vyas were the two members of the committee.
In its report, the committee had apprehended that Panna was showing signs of going the Sariska way where almost all the tigers vanished. Castigating the State Forest Department for the park’s poor management, the experts had categorically said that though Sariska was unfortunate, Panna was unforgivable. The committee had submitted its report pointing out to several anomalies in the park including unplanned wildlife management.
The MP Forest Department, nevertheless, contended the committee’s findings tooth and nail. Through various representations to the State Government, the department had highlighted several measures taken up to upgrade wildlife protection and conservation measures in Panna.
Now, with the latest MoEF-IUCN survey putting Panna at a higher spot, elated Forest Department officers say they are justified. “The survey’s credibility lies in the fact that findings of the MoEF were reexamined and reconfirmed in a peer review by IUCN experts,” State Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Dr P B Gangopadhyay told Hindustan Times on Wednesday.
Though the park lost valuable points on certain parameters like relocation of villages, legal status and delineation of buffer zones, Gangopadhyay pointed out that a larger policy perspective was required to settle those issues.
He, nevertheless, stated the department would unabatedly continue its efforts towards wildlife conservation. “There is no reason for complacency and we would carry on our measures for betterment of our national parks,” Gangopadhyay maintained.