Updated: July 30, 2021 3:57:47 am
ON THE occasion of International Tiger Day on Thursday, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav announced that 14 tiger reserves in India have received accreditation of the Global Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS).
CA|TS is a globally accepted conservation tool that sets best practice and standards to manage tigers and encourages assessments to benchmark progress. Habitats which support tiger populations are the building blocks of wild tiger conservation and effectively managing them is essential for long-term survival of wild tigers, said officials.
CA|TS is being implemented across 125 sites in seven tiger range countries and India has the highest 94 sites, out of which assessment was completed for 20 tiger reserves this year.
The 14 tiger reserves, which have been accredited, are Manas, Kaziranga and Orang in Assam; Satpura, Kanha and Panna in Madhya Pradesh; Pench in Maharashtra; Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar; Dudhwa in Uttar Pradesh; Sunderbans in West Bengal; Parambikulam in Kerala; Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka; and Mudumalai and Anamalai Tiger Reserves in Tamil Nadu.
“We now have 51 tiger reserves across 18 states. I congratulate all officials and stakeholders involved that we have been able to maintain and reach international standards in order to get the accreditation,” Yadav said. “The National Tiger Conservation Authority has informed us that there are three more reserves waiting for this accreditation.”
“I would like all 51 reserves to be able to meet these standards. As we know, while the tiger is a flagship species, by preserving and protecting the tiger we are also protecting entire eco-systems and all species, flora and fauna, which fall within it. We must maintain a balance between development and conservation and we need to protect its topography – and by that I mean not just the reserves but also tiger corridors which are essential for its movements,” he said.
But even as the minister talked of preserving tiger reserves and corridors, an analysis carried out by the environmental organisation Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment says that the condition of many tiger reserves has declined due to diversion of land for infrastructure projects.
“The condition of tiger habitats in the country continues to degrade with every clearance being mechanically accorded by various statutory committee – Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), Regional Empowered Committee, Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife (SC-NBWL) and Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC). There is almost no consideration of the fact that such diversion will have impact on tiger habitat… The issue of concern is that tiger habitats (tiger reserves and tiger corridors) continue to be diverted for infrastructural projects such as roads, railways, pipelines, transmission lines, etc. which were given clearances,’’it says.
The analysis found that the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) approved diversion 324.89 ha in 2019 and 594.5752 ha in 2020 in prime tiger habitats. “Further, analysis of clearances granted by SC-NBWL in the four meetings conducted so far this year, shows they have diverted 770.24 ha of tiger habitat in 2021. Besides these, several projects are in pipeline waiting to be cleared,’’ says the LIFE analysis.
An example of this is Rajaji Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand, where a total of six projects involving an area of 139.08 ha was approved for diversion in the past one year, where all of them were road projects.
These include construction of Ganeshpur-Dehradun road project applied as two proposals (47.7054 ha and 9.6224 ha), Naudkhal Malakota Road to Sirasu Motor Road (9.541 ha) in Pauri Gharwal, four-laning of Haridwar-Nagina section of NH-74 (64.748 ha), Laldhang-Chillarkhal road project (7.7 ha) and Naudkhal Mala to Kota road project (7.465 ha). “All these road upgradations are in close vicinity or in Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of the reserve affecting important tiger and elephant corridors,” it says.
A similar case was of Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve (MHTR) in Rajasthan, where 10 projects in year 2020 were approved, diverting a total of 80.6354 ha from tiger reserve and its surrounding corridors.
The analysis points out that the fragmentation of tiger territories, often leads to patches of isolated tiger reserves. Landscape connectivity plays a significant role in conservation.
Prameek Kannan, senior biologist with WWF who works in the Western Indian Tiger Landscape, specifically the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, says it is one such isolated tiger patch. “Ranthambore is not connected to Sariska, its closest tiger reserve is approximately 150 km away. There are also no other tiger patches around, which puts the tiger at Ranthambore at risk,” says Kannan.
“Tigers only travel in dense cover, and therefore use the scrub forests in this arid landscape. Tigers have a large range of at least 100 square kilometres, and Ranthambore spans only across 400 square kilometers. There are approximately 50 Tigers in Ranthambore, half of them male. This pushes them to the periphery of the forests by which they can stray into non-forested areas for prey, even if there is no lack of prey within the park itself,” he says.
Kannan says that not only does this increase the possibility of human-tiger conflict, but also puts the tiger in danger of going extinct locally, with no genetic flow being available.
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