Violating guidelines set by the union ministry of environment and forests, the West Bengal government failed to conduct annual tiger census and could not even utilise the Centre’s funds under Project Tiger, the CAG has said.
“Ministry of Environment and Forest did not release Rs 6.21 crore under centrally sponsored scheme ‘Project Tiger’ against the sanctioned central share due to department’s inability to spend the amount released as well as non-submission of utilisation certificates,” the Comptroller and Auditor General said in its report.
As per 2001 MoEF guidelines estimation of tiger was to be carried out annually under the Project Tiger. “(Forest) Department conducted estimation of tigers till 2004 and claimed population of tigers in Sundarbans and Buxa as 274 and 27 respectively. Estimation of tiger as per MoEF guidelines were not carried out thereafter,” CAG said.
It also criticised the authorities of Buxa Tiger Reserve saying they ‘did not attempt’ to conduct camera-trap study as was done in he Sundarbans Tiger Reserve. In 2011, tiger population was estimated to be 20 in Buxa through scat analysis.
Asked to comment on the CAG observations, state Forest Minister Binay Krishna Barman said that the tiger census would be regularised soon.
The CAG also pointed out that the forest department violated National Tiger Conservation Authority guidelines by including Sajnekhali wildlife sanctuary in the buffer zone of Sundarbans tiger reserve. According to the guidelines, a wildlife sanctuary should be included in the core area of a tiger reserve and not in the buffer zone.