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Human-tiger conflict may rise in Corbett due to shrinking forests, settlements in buffer area: Study

From 1990 to 2015, the forest cover in the buffer of Corbett Tiger Reserve shrunk from 55% to 43%, human settlements increased from over 4% to 9% and agricultural area from 26% to 31%, says the study.

dehradun Updated: Aug 25, 2018 02:06 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
Neeraj Santoshi
Hindustan Times, Nainital
Human-tiger conflict,Corbett,buffer
An earlier Uttarakhand high court order stressed that Corbett corridor was the most significant habitat for wildlife, such as tigers, elephants, leopards, bears and around 600 bird species.(Picture for representation)

Human-tiger conflict is expected to rise in the Corbett reserve, with forest cover shrinking and human settlements growing in the buffer area, says a study.

From 1990 to 2015, the forest cover in the buffer of the Corbett Tiger Reserve shrunk from 55% to 43%, human settlements increased from over 4% to 9% and of agricultural area from nearly 26% to 31%, says the study conducted by Dr Prayag Madhukar Dhakate, chief conservator of forests (western circle), and Shah M Belal (scientist) from the Uttarakhand forest department.

The study report found that the human population density of over 500 people per square kilometre in the buffer landscape exceeds the national average of 300 people/sq km. The study is based on remote-sensing data on changes in land use and land cover in the 10-km stretch of the buffer around the core of the Corbett reserve.

The study was cited in the order issued by a division bench of Uttarakhand high court acting chief justice Rajiv Sharma and justice Lok Pal Singh on Thursday while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) regarding encroachments around the Corbett reserve.

The study documents changes in land use and land cover on eight points, such as agriculture, forest, forest gap, grassland, plantation, riverbed, settlement and water body. According to the study, the forest area in the buffer has reduced from 1163.68 sq km to 918.46 sq km. A total of 54.11% of the study area of the buffer had changed over 25 years from 1990 to 2015.

According to HC, the report revealed that 41.33% of the study area was under the non-forest activities, mainly agriculture. The area around Corbett has changed and is dominated by scattered and clustered settlements, such as hotels, resorts, apartments, land plotting, markets, and industries. The rural landscape is marked by scattered households, cattle camps and abundant houses, the study found.

The HC order stressed that Corbett corridor was the most significant habitat for wildlife, such as tigers, elephants, leopards, bears and around 600 bird species.

The study pointed out that with a population density of over 500 people/sq km in the buffer landscape, the tiger population is confined to the forest patches interspersed with multiple-use forests, agricultural land and human habitations. Saying that tourist influx to Corbett has increased from around 70,000 a season in 1990 to 2.5 lakh in 2015, the study pointed out that hotels, resorts, motels, shops, and transportation have gone up in the landscape.

HC said, “It is thus evident from the findings... about the threat being faced by the Corbett Tiger Reserve and its surrounding areas, more particularly, southern area, and despite that, the state government has not shown its keen interest to protect the wildlife.”

BS Bonsal, former member secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority and current member of the state board for wildlife, said that if these changes have happened in the buffer, they would impact the wildlife as a “buffer is used as a corridor or for dispersal” by wild animals. “The authorities have to look into whether changes had been regulated as major development activities in the buffer, which is an ecologically sensitive area, need regulation.”

Wildlife activist AG Ansari said as the population has increased in the study period, changes are bound to happen. “But the data needs further analysis, like for what purpose the forest land in the buffer has been used, whether these changes have happened on revenue, community or protected forest land in the buffer,” he said.

First Published: Aug 25, 2018 02:06 IST