Ranchi, Oct. 22: A national team visiting the Palamau Tiger Reserve has castigated Jharkhand for not being serious about its upkeep, citing stark mismanagement and a severe staff crunch as among the many testimonials to the indifference of successive state governments.
While senior officials of the reserve, including director Paritosh Upadhyay, cited delays in sanctioning funds as the primary reason for all problems, the team, constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India (NTCA), wasn’t impressed.
“Despite the problems and the hue and cry over financial delays, the lack of sincere attempts to conserve tigers in this region were highly evident,” opined R.L. Singh, the chief wildlife warden of Uttar Pradesh and chairman of the committee that is expected to be in the state till Sunday.
He said the core area of the Palamau reserve had substantial human habitation which was against the law. And although there were relocation plans, Singh maintained, the team found villagers to be unaware of the provisions that were supposed to be explained by the state government.
“We tried to ascertain if the villagers inside the reserve had been told about relocation and their packages. We found hardly anyone is aware about it. Also, we are planning to revise the present package of Rs 10 lakh per family to Rs 10 lakh per adult in the family,” Singh, a former PCCF, said.
The committee chairman pointed out that of 3,200 tigers in the world, India alone had around 1,500 big cats.
“So preserving them is our responsibility. However, there are serious apprehensions and questions about the management of the reserve (Palamau). That is the reason this independent committee has been set up,” he added.
Apart from Singh, the team comprises Prerna Singh Bindra, member national wildlife advisory board; R. Dogra of ICFRI, Dehradun; and K. Malkani of Wildlife Institute of India.
The team is expected to visit Chhattisgarh and Bihar after Jharkhand. It will prepare a comprehensive report by the end of the month and submit it to the ministry.
“The team inspected various planning processes undertaken at the reserve so far to evaluate its implementation and progress,” said Upadhyay, who accompanied the visitors along with S.K. Sharma, the chief conservator of forest, wildlife.
“Some issues like infrastructure and corridor linkages in adjoining forested areas will be the main focus of the visit,” he said, adding that the primary challenges facing the Palamau reserve were funds delays and acute shortage of manpower for maintenance.
“Due to late release of funds, activities like habitat improvement, fire protection, road repair and maintenance and improvement of waterholes, which are crucial for wildlife mpanagement, are not carried out properly,” explained Upadhyay.
A committee member was appalled at the level of state indifference. “Out of 95 vacancies there are only 19 people employed in the reserve. How can one expect to save tigers?” he asked.