The Madhya Pradesh high court has issued notices to the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), forest department, state chief wildlife warden, state wildlife board, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), asking them to reply within three weeks as to why the proposed Ratapani Tiger Reserve (RTR) had not been notified till date despite 'in principal approval' granted by the central government.
A division bench of MP High Court presided by chief justice AM Khanvilkar and Justice SS Kemkar issued notices on Monday. The copies of the notices were made available on Tuesday.
The proposed RTR falls in Bhopal-Raisen forest division. The order came in a petition filed by wildlife activist Ajay Dubey, pointing out the inordinate delay of more than six years in the notification of RTR covering Ratapani and Singhori wildlife sanctuaries in Raisen and Sehore districts respectively.
The proposal for notification of Ratapani as tiger reserve was moved in the backdrop of increasing tiger population in the said sanctuaries, which had repeatedly started spilling over and moving on to the Kerva Forests of Bhopal district. This was creating habitat availability problems for the tigers and resulting in incidents of man-animal conflict in the areas near Bhopal.
Counsel for the petitioner Siddharth Gupta maintained that under Wildlife Protection Act, the state government was duty bound to finally notify the RTR, which had not been done till date. Gupta said that he argued before the court that while on one hand the notification of the tiger reserve was being delayed inordinately, on the other hand, the state government through State Wildlife Board granted in principal approval of various projects inside the proposed boundaries of the tiger reserve.
"Projects like thermal power plants, rail lines, etc. have all been approved and recommended for approval to the central government, despite the members of SWB being consciously aware of the pending proposal of notification of tiger reserve on the same said areas," said Gupta, adding, the recommendations of State Wildlife Board clearly deserves to be quashed in view of these projects affecting the tiger corridor.
In August HT had reported about the delay in creation of RTR and the apprehensions whether Ratapani was proving small for tigers. The petitioner used the HT report in his petition. Petitioner Ajay Dubey alleged the state government was delaying to notify Ratapani as a tiger reserve, as doing so would disturb the status of the landholdings of many influential people which may come under buffer area of the tiger reserve or near it.