Tigers are all set to return to their home in Sariska. If all works well and as per schedule, Sariska may have tigers in a year’s time, said officials of the ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Tigers had gone missing from Sariska in 2004 because of rampant poaching and later Sansar Chand, a notorious wildlife poacher, was arrested on the charge of killing the tigers there.
In a major breakthrough, the Centre was able to convince the Rajasthan government to relocate two villages out of the Sariska Tiger Reserve. According to Rajesh Gopal, Director (Project Tiger), over 60 families will be given Rs one lakh each by the Central Government as an incentive to move out of the reserve.
The Rajasthan government, on its part will also compensate with Rs one lakh for a family, apart from allocating farming land a little away from the reserve.
While the Centre has already released money for the relocation, the ministry officials said, a strategy to deal with other issues related to tiger safety will be discussed with the Rajasthan government at a meeting in Delhi on October 30. “We have called a high level meeting with Conservator of Forest, Rajasthan to prepare a time locked schedule to settle the remaining issues,” Gopal said. Gopal with Secretary Environment Pradipto Ghosh visited Sariska last month and conducted on spot study to access the ground situation.
At the meeting, the three remaining issues remain are likely to be discussed. They are limited visit to a historical temple within the tiger reserve, use of a road tehsil level road crisscrossing through the reserve and replacing the old forest staff with younger blood. “About 30-40 per cent posts in the tiger reserve are vacant,” an official said. A former Project Tiger Director said that the guards need to be equipped with new weapons as the ones they carry are not insufficient to deal with poachers.
Officials, however admit that restricting the visitors in the temple is a major issue as religious sentiments of people in many villages around the reserve is involved. “We don’t the temple to be relocated or stop pilgrimage there. But, there should be some sort of restriction on the number of people and the timing for the visit,” an official said. The Rajasthan government is yet to agree to this.
On the road issue, the two governments are working on a plan to construct an alternative road. Till that is done, the present Tehalana road will continue to be used but the ministry is demanding that speed limit should be imposed.
The positive indication for the tigers to return to their favourite habitat has emerged from the fact that both governments are agreeable to a roadmap. “I see a lot of sincerity on both sides,” Gopal commented, while adding that once the basic security available tigers can be relocated from any of the reserves in Central India.