Did MP govt ignore PM's recommendation on protecting tigers?
New Delhi: Two years before the Supreme Court clamped on tourism inside the core areas of tiger reserves, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had written a letter to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on the need to protect tigers in the state's forests.
A slew of measures including declaration of buffer areas of tiger reserves and constitution of a special force to protect the wild cats were suggested by the Prime Minister two years ago.
The Prime Minister had in April 2010 wrote to Chouhan emphasising on "urgent need" to secure tigers through concerted efforts, according to a copy of letter made public by RTI activist Ajay Dubey.
Efforts to get reaction from the Chief Minister's Office did not bear fruit. Madhya Pradesh Forest Minister Sartaj Singh could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
Singh had suggested steps, including regulation of tourism related commercial activities in the surrounding core areas of tiger reserves by declaring buffer areas of the reserves as ecologically sensitive and making the core or critical tiger habitats inviolate in a time bound manner by expediting relocation of human settlements with the enhanced relocation package of Project Tiger.
Besides, it was suggested that the Government would step up protection of wild cats in a professional manner by constituting Special Tiger Protection Force and expedite the notification of buffer areas of tiger reserves vis-a-vis the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
While pressing for immediate steps, the PM had said, "The core or critical tiger habitats of tiger reserves have to be safeguarded immediately from several decimating factors like man-tiger conflicts, poaching and resource dependency of local people, while ensuring availability of forest areas in the fringes for the spill over population of wild animals".
Two years had passed since the PM sent the letter to the Madhya Pradesh government but little has been done on the recommendations.
"The Madhya Pradesh government could not constitute a tiger protection force. Neither could it regulate the tourism in and around the tiger habitats nor could it make the critical tiger habitats inviolate," Dubey said.
He said it was only when the Madhya Pradesh High Court in 2010 issued notices (on hearing a petition filed by Dubey) to the state government, buffer zones in five of the six tiger reserves - Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Satpuda, Pench and Sanjay - were notified.
"Panna Tiger reserves, which has the highest tiger population is still not notified for buffer zone," Dubey said.
While hearing a PIL filed by Dubey, the Supreme Court had on July 24 held that there shall be no tourism activity in any of the core zones of tiger reserves.
Following the court order, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister had on July 31 met Union Environment and Forest Minister Jayanthi Natarajan and sought her intervention to cope up with the fallout of a recent Supreme Court directive banning tourism in core areas of tiger reserves across the country.
During the meeting, the Chief Minister urged her to intervene in the matter saying the apex court verdict would affect livelihoods of thousands of persons dwelling in and around the forest covers.