Ban development in tiger habitats, advises conservation body
With the number of tigers in India doubling between 2006 and 2018 to 2,967, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked that core and critical tiger habitats be declared inviolate spaces where no infrastructure development or mining can be allowed, and that tiger corridors be carefully interlinked.
Mining and linear projects pose a threat to both tiger corridors and habitat. “Linear projects such as roads are a major problem in maintaining corridors. Mining affects the tiger habitat, particularly in the central India landscape,” said YV Jhala, scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India.
According to Rajesh Gopal, former head of NTCA, India’s mineral map shows that most states rich in tigers are also rich in minerals.
“Tiger corridors are subjected to all kinds of stresses which is inevitable in a transforming landscape. So it’s important to secure these linkages by engaging with all stakeholders, especially local people,” added Gopal, who is now the secretary general of the Global Tiger Forum.
Recently, the environment ministry’s forest advisory committee has given in-principle approval for survey and exploration of uranium in Telangana’s Amrabad Tiger Reserve.
NTCA, the apex tiger conservation body in the country, which comes under the ministry of environment and forests, has also recommended developing a national-level strategy for management of conflict situations and dispersion of tigers if conflict arises — a clear recognition that the number of tigers has hit saturation levels in some areas even as the so-called inviolate spaces available have shrunk.
On Tuesday, NTCA released an “action plan for cross-sectoral approach in tiger conservation” that has underlined a “landscape” approach. One of the action points mentioned in the plan is the development of a district-level land-use strategy that recognises the importance of grasslands and forests as tiger habitat. “We plan to implement the plan on priority. NTCA has proposed this based on a coordination meeting on broad issues facing tigers. The plan is yet to be approved by the government on paper,” said Nishant Verma, deputy inspector general of forests, NTCA.
NTCA has also recommended a multi-stakeholder consultation at the project-planning stage for infrastructure projects near tiger habitats and corridors. “This needs to be done in partnership with ministries of road transport & highways, mines, power, and railways and other relevant stakeholders, for evolving a gainful portfolio to indigenous people who are the primary stakeholders,” the action plan said.
It also suggests the creation of community guardians for conserving biodiversity and developing a state-level mechanism to ensure that victims of tiger attack gets ex-gratia payment on time. Delays only end up turning the local populace against the big cats.
The All India Tiger Estimation Results released Monday have put the country’s tiger count at 2,967. Chhattisgarh recorded a decrease from 46 in 2014 to 19 in 2018, mainly due to mining and left wing extremism that limits access, according to experts; Mizoram and northern West Bengal have not recorded any signs like scat DNA. Tigers were not recorded in Buxa, West Bengal, Dampa in Mizoram and Palamau in Jharkhand, where tiger signs were recorded in the 2014 census.
Another recommendation by the NTCA is co-implementing a strategy in collaboration with the Jal Shakti ministry on how tiger conservation can help in ensuring water security for the country.