Bandhavgarh: Shortage of more than 100 trained foresters coupled with fund crunch to shift about a dozen villages from the core area of Bandhavgarh National Park, which has the highest density of tigers, are posing a
grave problem for its authorities.
"There is a need for minimum 240 staff including forest guards, range officers and foresters here to properly maintain the reserve park but we have only about 100 staff to do the job," CK Patil, field director of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve,
Situated in the Umaria district of Madhya Pradesh, the core area of the park is spread over 716 sq km. According to the latest census, there are 59 tigers in the park, an increase of 12 from 2006.
Known for its highest density of Royal Bengal tigers in the world, there are still 12 villages inside the core area Bandhavgarh forest.
"There were a total 14 villages inside the core area and till now we could shift only one village and the process for shifting another is in the process. We need to relocate all these villages otherwise it would be difficult to prevent man-animal conflict and protect wildlife," Patil said.
According to the relocation scheme, every family gets Rs 10 lakh as compensation for shifting out from the core area. There are about 2,500 families residing in the area.
"We need Rs 250 crore for shifting these villages out of the core forest area. We are not able to expedite it due to the severe fund crunch," the field director said. Besides tigers, Bandhavgarh forest is home for the sloth bear, wild boars and large number of deer. The buffer area of the forest is spread over 820 sq km. There are 98 villages in the buffer zone of the forest.
Describing man-animal conflict in the core area as a serious issue, Patil said, "Four cattle are killed per day on an average in the forest. The problem will continue unless the area is free of villages."
Authorities have taken help from villagers to patrol the forest regularly. "We have trained about 300 villagers for patrolling duty in the forest," Patil said.
The tiger reserve forest, 102 km from Katni railway station, however is attracting tourists in hordes.
Last year about one lakh tourists including 35,000 foreigners visited the park. "This year we expect to exceed the one lakh mark," said a senior Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation official.
Because of tigers, Bandhavgarh has emerged as one of the top foreign tourist destinations in the state.
"Foreigners come to Madhya Pradesh mainly for our rich heritage and wildlife destinations and Bandhavgarh attracts many foreigners for the wildlife," the official said.
There are about 15 hotels and resorts in the Bandhavgarh for tourists. "All hotels remain idle during the rainy season as the park remains closed from July to September," said Abhinav Tiwari, managing director of Syna Tiger Resort.
Bandhavgarh park has earned about Rs 4 crore as revenue from ticketing fees from tourists.
"Since it is a reserve forest there are restrictions on tourists` entry. We allow only 130 vehicles from three gates of the park," Patil said.