New Delhi: How`s this for skewered priorities: Over 617 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries that are home to several critically endangered species like the Great Indian Bustard and the Snow Leopard get a mere Rs 75 crore or Rs 1 lakh each per month, on an average, while the 43 reserves for the big cat get a whopping Rs 165 crore.
Going by the financial allocation for management of protected areas, each of the 102 national parks and 515 wildlife sanctuaries get only around Rs 12 lakh annually - around Rs 1 lakh per month.
According to the environment ministry, this is despite a Planning Commission promise to double the allocation from the present Rs 75 crore annual to Rs 150 crore.
India`s network of 664 protected areas extend over 4.9 percent of the country`s geographical area. The network comprises 102 national parks, 515 wildlife sanctuaries, 47 conservation reserves - including 43 tiger reserves - and four community reserves.
"At present, we only get around Rs. 75 crore annually for managing 617 protected areas across all states," a senior environment ministry official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
"Even if we leave the 100 protected areas in the Andaman and Nicobar region - for most of them being islands - there are still around 517 which need sufficient investment for maintenance, upkeep and smooth running," the official said.
The ministry official said that during meetings to finalise the allocations for the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17), the Planning commission had promised to double the Rs 75 crore allocation. "The Planning Commission has given us Rs 150 crore per year on paper but when it came to allocation, Rs 75 crore only came," the official said.
What adds to the ministry`s woes is that it has not just to manage the protected areas but has to take up wildlife conservation programmes of other endangered species from the same amount.
"It is a lose-lose situation for us. We are able to focus neither on maintenance of protected areas nor on species conservation. State governments do contribute some amount for upkeep of protected areas but that is not something substantial," the official added.
During a meeting of the National Board for Wildlife last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who heads the board, had emphasised the need to focus on the conservation of other endangered animals and not just tigers.
The much celebrated tiger conservation programme covering 43 tiger reserves gets over Rs 160 crore per year.
The matter to give importance to other species has been raised several times in the meeting of the Standing Committee on the National Wildlife Board.
Divyabhanusinh Chavda, president, WWF-India, said: "While the 43 tiger reserves were allocated a total of Rs. 778 crore during the 11th Five Year Plan and Rs 167.70 crore during the current financial year of the 12th Five Year Plan, the total allocation for all wildlife conservation in the country other than Project Tiger, Project Elephant and control of wildlife crime is a mere Rs 75 crore in the current financial year.
"This is a meagre amount to protect the last remaining habitats of India`s most critically endangered species such as the Jerdon`s Courser, the Great Indian Bustard, the Snow Leopard, the Kashmir Stag and the Manipur Deer," he added.