The wildlife conservation in the state would get another boost in the wake of Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's announcement to increase the budgetary allocation for wildlife conservation from a meagre Rs 65-lakh to Rs 15-crore from the next financial year.
This is second occasion when the state wildlife department is getting adequate funding for wildlife conservation. Earlier, it got around Rs 41-crore from the World Bank Forestry Project, launched a decade back.
The announcement was made by the chief minister in the State Wildlife Board meeting, held in Nagpur on Monday. The chief minister is the chairman of the board. He also assured the board that he would ensure all the necessary help for the betterment of the forest conservation.
Deshmukh assured the members that he would make certain strengthening of wildlife management by conserving wildlife, rehabilitation, relocation of villages inside protected areas and strengthening the non-protected areas.
However, the non-inclusion of wildlife conservation experts in the Project Relocation Authority, set up by the state government in October this year, to ensure better rehabilitation of project-affected people, came in for sharp criticism in the meeting.
The state set up the Project Relocation Authority to relocate villages inside wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and forest areas that are needed to be acquired for expansion of wildlife projects, irrigation and other projects.
On relocation of villages, B Majumder, the state wildlife warden, informed that out of 22 villages in Melghat Tiger project, only three villages are being rehabilitated. For this purpose, Rs 1.09-crore has been allotted. He said that relocation of six villages in the Tadoba Project Tiger is also in process. Four villages in the area of Navegaon National Park in Bhandara district have also been identified for rehabilitation.
The state has as many as 35 wildlife sanctuaries and six national parks. Of them, three are project tiger areas. Incidentally, all the three project tigers are in Vidarbha region. They are: Melghat, Tadoba and Pench. As many as 64 tigers were sighted in Melghat this year while 41 in Tadoba and 24 in Pench Tiger Project.