Govt says management issue,activists say its all about money
The Uttar Pradesh government is in no mood to declare Pilibhit forest a tiger reserve,despite the Centres in-principle approval for it.
The proposed tiger reserve,spread over more than 1,000 sq km,was given in-principle approval by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2008. Later,the state government sent the necessary proposal in 2010,but it was returned by the Centre seeking clear demarcation of core and buffer areas. Since then,the state government has failed to work out the precise details.
Forest Secretary R K Singh said the declaration of the tiger reserve will curtail movement of locals inside the forest,most of whom are dependent on the forest for many things like fodder. It will become a management problem to stop them from entering the reserve and implementing the restrictions of a tiger reserve,he said.
Singh added that without declaring it a tiger reserve,the department was running many conservation initiatives.
However,Parvez Habib,a Pilibhit-based wildlife activist,said the state government also did not want to lose the revenue which it gets by selling old trees and fodder and by auctioning several ponds inside the forest for fish trade. Besides,if the forest was declared a reserve,it will also have to allocate a budget for the reserve.
Lately,problems of man-animal conflict have been rising in Pilibhit. The deaths of three tigers have been reported in the last four months from the Pilibhit forests. One tiger was found killed in Puranpur area of the Pilibhit division on August 12. The bodies of two tigers were found in Pilibhit forest in May. They were found to have been poisoned by the villagers to avenge the killing of their animals by the tigers. The autopsy report of the tiger killed in August is awaited.
The animals of the herdsman who had allegedly poisoned the tigers in May were grazing inside the forest when they were attacked by the tiger. Once the forest is declared a tiger reserve,there will be no entry of human beings or herds inside the forest.
According to National Tiger Conservation Authority guidelines,the core area of a tiger reserve should be free of all human use,and the buffer area should have only conservation-oriented land use. The habitat management should be limited so as to repair the damages inflicted on it by biotic pressure and resurrect the habitat in its natural form.
Eco-development committees are formed involving the people living near the buffer area. The eco-development initiatives may include providing alternative fuels,biomass generation and forestry,eco-tourism,watershed management,and artisanry,thus reducing the man-animal conflict and crimes involving the fringe dwellers.
Former UP Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) BK Patnaik said they had submitted the proposal to the state government after queries from Government of India in 2010. He said that some MLAs had objected to the declaration of a tiger reserve,saying it would hurt the local people dependent on the forest. He added that political considerations could be a cause behind delay in declaration of the tiger reserve.
UP Chief Wildlife Warden Rupak De said that though there will be more funds for the forest after declaration of tiger reserve,there are some problems in demarcating the buffer areas because of human habitat around the forest.
There are more than 100 villages around the Pilbhit forest and most of the residents of these villages are dependent on the forest for many things,like fodder and wood.