The government's decision to expand the periphery of the famous Navegaon National park and upgrade it as a tiger project has hit a Naxal roadblock.
The Naxalites of CPI (Maoist) feel that if the government upgrades the park as tiger project and expand the sanctuary area, it would displace 30 villages under Deori tahsil of Gondia district. The Naxalites have pasted posters and distributed pamphlets in the area protesting the government move.
The state government and Maharashtra minister for forests Patangrao Kadam had proposed to expand the park as tiger project for conservation and protection of flora and fauna and boost tourism. While denouncing the proposal, the Left-wing extremists accused the government of being insensitive towards the tribals. The Naxalites have also appealed to the local villagers to oppose the government proposal.
The state government has increased the area under the Nagzira wildlife sanctuary and the Navegaon National Park for conservation and protection of big cats. Both Nagzira and Navegaon have also been proposed as tiger reserves.
State wildlife warden SWH Naqvi informed that the government issued a notification about adding 122 sq kms to Navegaon and 152 sq kms to Nagzira sanctuary, a couple of months ago.
"The total area for Navegaon has now increased from 135 sq kms to 257 sq kms," he added. The Navegaon National Park -- which is home to five tigers, a dozen leopards, sloth bear and other engendered wildlife species -- is located near Navegaon in Gondia district, in eastern part of Maharashtra.
Resorting to their oft-repeated method to criticise the government, the CPI (Maoist) of north Gadchiroli that comes under Maharashtra state committee, has claimed that the government is planning to displace tribals from their hamlets for the sake of capitalist ventures.
Apart from opposing the national park expansion plan, the rebels have also urged the elected representatives to resign from their posts as "they have played an indifferent role in addressing the grievances of people who voted them to power". Several people’s representatives from Gadchiroli district had already resigned from their respective posts following the naxal dictate.
The growing naxalite influence in the area has had an alarming impact on the forest conservation and wildlife protection. The forest officials said that the naxalite movement has not just limited to law and order problem but it also extends to the state’s forest conservation and wildlife protection activities. Few years ago, a forest guard of Navegaon national park was beaten up by naxalites and a forest department tractor was set afire by the left-wing extremists. Already two wildlife sanctuaries in the state -- Bhamragarh and Chhaprala in Gadchioroli district – are under the naxal threat and the forest department could not carry out the wildlife census there for the last several years.