Kerala National Parks Face Funds Crisis
On the same day Assam declared a serious shortage of funds, Kerala’s national parks and sanctuaries also stated they are cutting back on conservation activities due to lack of funds. There has been a drastic reduction in the central allocation and the state has not filled the void. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had reduced this years allocation to Rs. 2.88 crores as against last year’s Rs. 4.4 crores. This has led to downsizing of the protection staff and fire control operations and a large number of tribal watchers have been denied salaries. The Munnar wildlife division is the worst affected. Tribal watchers in Chinnar divsion had recently sought the intervention of the Forest minister and demanded steps for protecting their wages. An official in the division said that conservation measures are heavily dependent on forest tribal communities. With the cut in staff, the protected areas have become exposed to pressures of ecotourism, sandalwood smuggling, ganja cultivation, poaching, encroachment, and plundering of forest wealth. Senior officials in the state government have been apprised of the situation.