RECENTLY DECLARED the Tiger State of India, Madhya Pradesh is inching closer to getting its seventh tiger reserve — the Ratapani Tiger Reserve.
A committee set up by the state government to finalise contours of the core and buffer areas of the proposed reserve, to be carved out of the Ratapani wildlife sanctuary, has submitted its report. The proposed reserve has been hanging fire for more than a decade.
Of the 823.065 sq km area of the existing sanctuary, 763.812 sq km has been redrawn as the core and the remaining 59.253 sq km will be the buffer area of the proposed reserve. Out of the 29 revenue villages that were part of the sanctuary, nine villages, spread over 26.947 sq km, fall in the reserve’s core area.
New government’s tiger push
Despite the NTCA giving in-principle approval more than a decade ago, the tiger reserve did not come up amid allegations that the government was not keen on it. The new government, however, is pushing for it. The latest committee submitted its report within days. Once the reserve gets the final nod, it will boost tourism and bring Central funds. Located closer to Bhopal, is is expected to bring in more tourists.
While residents of Dantkhow village have been relocated, the process to relocate residents of three other villages is on. Besides the remaining five revenue villages, residents of three forest villages (spread over 3.070 sq km) will have to be relocated.
Former Chief Conservator of Forests (Bhopal), Dr S P Tiwari, who headed the five-member committee, told The Indian Express that the relocation won’t be hasty and will be done at the villagers’ convenience. Dr Tiwari, who submitted the report before he retired on Monday, said about 40 tigers live in the areas falling in the proposed reserve and it will be one of the bigger reserves in the state.
The sanctuary is spread over Raisen and Sehore districts, but the tiger reserve will also include some part of the Bhopal forest division. The five-member committee, which had DFOs of Sehore, Raisen and Bhopal as its members and DFO Obaidullaganj as member-secretary, was set up on September 19 to study dispersal of tigers from core and buffer areas of the proposed reserve and the needs related to employment and social and cultural development of the local communities.
Forest Secretary H S Mohanta said the government has just received the report and will study it. “The government has its own constraints and considerations, like costs involved. It is not necessary that the government will automatically accept every recommendation. If needed, the government can suggest some changes,” he said.
He added that after the state government, the recommendation will go to the state’s wildlife board.
Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey said the government will have to implement the report soon. He said the National Tiger Conservation Authority had long given its in-principle approval, but the matter was delayed. He alleged that the stone crusher mafia and people who benefited from illegal felling of teak trees from the sanctuary had stalled the project because the tiger reserve will bring in more protection measures and security. He said the state government will get more funds from the Centre and the local communities will get jobs with the arrival of tourists.
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