NEW DELHI, APRIL 12: Admitting that poaching was the main concern behind the dwindling tiger population, top officials today said more people would be deployed in problem zones and experts will work towards connecting fragmented reserves.
‘‘Poaching is the main concern... Though it has been a problem since long, there were no trends available to ascertain whether it was on decline... Besides working towards getting trends, the Department of Forests and Environment will deploy home guards, retired Army personnel and other staff to prevent poaching activities in problematic areas,’’ said Environment Secretary Dr Prodipto Ghosh. At today’s steering committee meeting, Project Tiger Director Dr Rajesh Gopal said the Ministry has taken note of the suggestion to deploy more personnel to man the reserves. He also said there was a general agreement on the new census techniques adopted for counting tigers, including pugmark and camera-trap methodology. ‘‘This would give us a true picture and finding by March 2006,’’ said Gopal. On Sariska Tiger Reserve, a decision was taken to start an ecological study to make a ‘‘scientific inference.’’
A second monitoring process, approved by Supreme court, is on and this assessment of 28 tiger reserves would be ready by the end of the month, Gopal said, adding the results would be analysed by a IUCN peer group and then sent to Parliament. “Problematic” tiger reserves Palamu and Manas were showing ‘‘signs of recovery”, Gopal said.
The committee decided against approving new reserves. Five states had sent in proposals for setting up new reserves, citing tiger sightings. ‘‘We have decided to consolidate the existing ones first...We will set up a committee that will come up with the norms which will be given to the Zoological Survey of India and Botanical Survey,’’ Gopal said.
The steering committee also expressed concern over the fragmentation of tiger habitat. Ghosh said the Ministry ‘‘will work towards linking protected areas so that tigers can move from one reserve to the other in case of any problem.’’
‘‘There are gaps in Central India and Eastern Ghats and the Terai region. Tiger areas are becoming islands of particular gene pool, and to avoid this, we need to monitor the connectivity problem,’’ Gopal said.
At today’s meeting, the non-government members of the committee requested the chairman in writing to:
• Fix responsibility within the MoEF for the debacle
• Order independent assessment of the role of the ministry in dealing with the crisis
• Immediately set up a tiger task force under PM
Member Valmik Thapar said: ‘‘It was agreed that the steering committee will meet at least every six months...Instead of only blaming the states, accountability must be fixed within the Union Ministry.’’