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Big cats lament

Its not just poachers now but a degrading ecology, which has added to the misery of tigers.

india Updated: Jun 23, 2006 03:08 IST

Its not just poachers now but a degrading ecology, which has added to the misery of tigers.

The falling green cover in and around 28 tiger reserves is a new danger being faced by the tiger population.

The report, 'Forest Cover in Tiger Reserves in India 2006' released on Monday by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shows a fall in green cover by 94 square kilometres within the reserves, in a five-year period between 1997-2002.

While forest cover has increased marginally in five tiger reserves including Jim Corbett, there has been a major depletion in 11 reserves, the report says.

Nameri Tiger Reserve had maximum forest destruction with fall in forest cover by 45 square kilometres. In Buxa, the green cover went down by 22 square kilometres of the total forest area of 643 square kilometres. Forest loss has also been noticed in Manas, Indravati and in Naxal affected areas of Chattisgarh and Dampa Tiger reserves. "The decrease can be attributed to illicit felling of trees leading to encroachments or human settlements close to the reserves," the report says.

The brunt of human onslaught and natural disasters on the forest was borne mostly by moderately dense forest, that fell by 251 square kilometres.

Outside the reserves, where the tigers normally wander and where an increase in population is noticed, the situation is even worse. The report says forest cover has fallen by 124 square kilometres in the five-year period.

Only two reserves showed improvements in the forest cover. In 21 reserves, the tree zone fell while it remained unchanged in case of five tiger reserves. "We  conducted a satellite based mapping of the reserves and found that lack of buffer zone was a cause for increasing threat to tigers," an official in Ministry of Environment and Forest said.  Officials however, blamed the state governments for the depleting forest cover. "We have been giving money under Project Tiger to different states for improving the buffer zone. Now, it appears that the money has not been utilised properly," a ministry official said.