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Meet to discuss relocation of villagers living in tiger reserves

The ministry of Environment and Forests has proposed a compensation package for relocating villagers from the tiger reserves, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2006 01:05 IST

Tigers would again be pitted against humans at the first meeting of the newly created National Tiger Conservation Authority on Tuesday when the issue of relocation of hundreds of villages in tiger reserves is likely to be discussed. 

The ministry of Environment and Forests has proposed a compensation package for relocating villagers from the tiger reserves. "It is an attractive package," a ministry official told HT, while informing that land for the land policy is being adopted along with financial incentives. 

There are over 2,000 villages in and around the 28 tiger reserves. The government wants most of them to be relocated in a bid to provide a protected environment for tigers and to improve conservation. A provision for relocation in consultation with the villagers was recently made part of the Wildlife Protection Act and is likely to be incorporated in the Scheduled Tribes (Recognisation of Rights) Bill, 2006, to be tabled in the current session of Parliament. 

Forest dwellers, on the other hand, are opposing such a move. "Tribals and dwellers have been protecting wildlife for years. Removing them from reserves will open doors for poachers hand in glove with the forest department officials to kill tigers," said S Shankar of Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a body of tribals and forest dweller groups.

Raman Sukumar, professor at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and member of the authority, believes that relocation of people should be done judiciously. "We cannot create isolated habitats for tigers and elephants. It will make the job of poachers easy. Involvement of locals in protection is important," he told HT. A MoEF official, added "we are also proposing the involvement of local people in tiger conservation".

The environment ministry will also propose deployment of ex-servicemen in tiger reserves in the insurgency or Naxalite-hit areas like Indravati Tiger Reserve in Bastar District of Chattisgarh. No census could be carried out in Indravati as the area is said to be under the control of Naxalites and there are very few forest officials at the reserve. "Forest guards are finding it difficult to work and check poaching in these areas," the official explained.

The ministry, in the papers circulated before the meeting, has not expressed much happiness with the poaching control measures and the state that poaching still continues to be very "high".  "There is no significant reduction," the official said. But, Ashok Kumar of the Wildlife Trust of India said poaching is still very rampant as many cases go unreported.

The ministry will also inform the members on the work done on Tiger Census, the first phase of which is expected to be reported by December. A brief paper on the follow-up action on the recommendations of Tiger Task Force report submitted in 2005 will also be presented.

Email Chetan Chauhan: chetan@hindustantimes.com