Monday, July 23, 2007

Exclusive space for tigers soon

22 Jul 2007

Nitin Sethi, TNN

NEW DELHI: A new rehabilitation package for people to be relocated from tiger reserves and the guidelines for government to declare 'inviolate areas' — an exclusive area for the tigers free of human presence — are on the anvil.

They will be hammered out at a two-day meeting organised by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) at Dehradun with the field directors of the 28 existing tiger reserves and the eight new ones proposed.

NTCA has prepared the first draft guidelines for deciding what constitutes an 'inviolate area' as well as a draft proposal for relocation of people who could get displaced by the declaration of such spaces.

The government has been keen to find a better rehabilitation package with much of earlier resettlement attempts failing miserably and creating friction between the local populace and the forest department. But this time, it will have to demarcate 'inviolate spaces' keeping in mind the recent amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act which makes a scientific demarcation of such spaces as mandatory before any further relocation is undertaken.

Besides these two draft reports, the meeting will also finalise the proposal for creation of a Tiger Protection Force, comprising ex-servicemen and people living around the tiger reserves.

It will also go through the draft eco-tourism guidelines, which are bound to become a big issue as the field directors of the tiger reserves and NTCA in a previous meeting had recommended that a percentage of the revenues from tour operators and hotels that depend upon tiger tourism be routed to conservation and supporting villagers that get relocated.

Besides these, the agenda also includes discussion on an economic rehabilitation package for hunting and other key tribes, who have often been blamed for playing the role of the last link in the poaching chain, very often for lack of alternative livelihood opportunities.

The meeting comes in the wake of the PM's recent review of tiger conservation status in the country and implementation of the Tiger Task Force and just before the crucial meeting of the National Wildlife Board of India, which is chaired by the PM.

The areas requiring additional funding, relocation and rehab of hunting tribes will need to be taken through further government channels for final approval.

The Union government is keen to also test the idea of signing MoUs with the state governments for implementation of the tiger conservation agenda, with states still showing little progress in following up on mandatory requirements under the recent amendments of the Wildlife Protection Act which requires them to, besides other things, demarcate the core and buffer areas of the declared tiger reserves and shore up protection.

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