Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, July 17:
The Union Government today said that in-principle approval has been given for creation of two new tiger reserves in the country including the Maoist dominated Sunabeda Tiger Reserve in Odisha’s Nuapada district.
While replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha today, the Union Environment minister Prakash Javadekar also said concurrence has been accorded for creation of four more elephant reserves, including two in Odisha.
“In-principle approval has been accorded by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for creation of two new tiger reserves and the sites are Ratapani (Madhya Pradesh) and Sunabeda (Odisha),” said Javadekar in a written reply.
Presently there are 46 tiger reserves in the country spread over 18 states encompassing a total area of 68518.8 sq km while there are 28 elephant reserves in the country.
He said that out of total allocation of Rs 32.58 crore in 2013-14, Rs 18.43 has been disbursed to various states under Project Elephant. Similarly, the entire amount of Rs 172.29 crore allocated for Project Tiger for 2013-14 has been disbursed to states, he said.
The Sunabeda sanctuary area is a happy hunting ground for Maoists. Several forest officials have been killed in the area in the last few years.
The proposed Tiger Reserve, spread over 600 square kilometres on the Odisha-Chhattisgarh border in Nuapada district, has failed to attract wildlife enthusiasts and tourists due to fear of ultras, who have unleashed a reign of terror in the region, killing nearly 20 persons, including forest and police officials, so far.
However, the Union minister informed that the government is taking steps for tiger protection that include implementing a tripartite MoU with tiger states, linked fund flow for effective implementation of tiger conservation initiatives and sending of special crack teams to tiger reserves affected by Left Wing Extremism.
The Sunabeda sanctuary had 32 tigers and 36 leopards, as per the 2004 tiger census. However, no tiger census was conducted in 2010 due to the Maoist threat. The census, conducted by Wildlife Institute of India (WWI), had restricted itself to the Similipal Tiger Reserve and the Satkosia Tiger Reserve that year. However, the official had conducted census in a selected part of the Sunabeda reserve – where there is no Maoist presence- in March this year.
While around 26 forest guards, 10 foresters, three range officers and one divisional forest officer were deployed in the region to carry out conservation measures, the Maoists menace in the region has forced the department to limit its vigil. Even the arms given to the forest security personnel have been deposited in the district armoury for fear of Maoist raids, said a senior forest official.