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The race is on: Tiger vs Man in the forests of India

Locals being axed of their ancestral lands to safeguard a tiger habitat

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Tiger
Tiger vs Man in the forests of India, credits-pixabay

Bhubaneshwar, Feb 27, 2017: In the Similipal forests, man and tiger co-exist in huge numbers. The race is now on to see which animal will win supremacy on their ‘home’.

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The indigenous villages are ripped off their rights fighting against the tigers with more clout.

Sanghamitra Dubey, an activist with an informal Indian advocacy group for forestry rights asked, “Why are indigenous people being asked outright to leave without even attempting to explore reasonable options of coexistence with wildlife?”, mentioned a report on Similipal forests by Thompson Reuters Foundation.

Dubey further highlighted the stripping of the ancestral lands of the people to protect the shrinking number of tigers and how it led to the extinction of the traditional ways of life, like the old rope plaiting technique.

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Nearly half the estimated 3200 tigers of the world are found in India, in dozens of different reserves built since the 1970s.

The tiger has more cloat than the human, Source: Pixabay

Wildlife tourism serves as a growing money maker for the country. However, conservationists continue to debate if the tourists encroach their habitat or help protect the species.

The relocation process:-

Notice: last November, to protect the Tiger habitat in the forests, hundreds of families from about 44 different villages were asked to relocate.

Anup Kumar Nayak, a senior forest officer in Bhubaneswar said, “relocations are voluntary but a number of villages around Similipal were in the ‘core’ habitat zone or so close they were “as good as inside it” and would need to move. Only the Buffer zone is for human-animal coexistence.”

Only months ago had the villagers acquired rights to the 25000 hectares of woodland area.

The Forest Rights Act of 2006 permits Tribal Households to harvest and utilize the forest resources for maintenance of their ancestral lands.

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One-off Settlement: A visit by the Park Officials was reported by the villagers in November, offering them a one-off payment to evacuate their homes and lands to clear the forest lands under human activity.

Tribandha Barja, a villager reported that most of the people refused the offer. “(They told us) take one million rupees keep it in the bank and live better with the bank interest,” Barja said.

Dubey also commented that 50 families from a neighboring village were also targeted though it was nowhere near the core zone.

As per official figures, about 2750 square kilometers of dense forests are covered by tigers reserves including bio-diverse land and adjoining forest which is used as a corridor by other animals.

According to the report by Thompson Reuters Foundation, 10,000 people are estimated to live within the park including the buffer zone by the Authorities. Also, half a million people are estimated to live in 1,200 villages within a 10km radius around the park.

The 10 year tiger conservation plan of Odisha highlights that 800 to 1000 square kilometer area is required by 80 to 100 tigers.

As pointed out by Nayak, this serves as the reason behind the relocation.

However, only 26 Royal Bengal Tigers were found by the official Odisha government in the Similipal reserve last year.

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The End of the rope plaiting : In the core of the park, in the Jamuna Garh Village, only 3 out of approximately 35 families have stayed back and decided to continue to use their land. The others chose to relocate, accepting the compensation.

One of the holdouts, Telanga Hasa said, “neighboring families had been paid one million rupees via bank deposit in September 2015 – of which 30,000 rupees was paid in cash.”

“All are still waiting to be allocated the two acres of farmland they were promised.”
“Now they have no forests, no farm land and no livelihood …how can they live with dignity?” Hasa also said that 25 families in the hillside village in Bakua had also stayed back.

The villagers are unable to access the sacred creeper ‘siali’ from which the rope os plaited. This rope, very strong, is highly demanded by farmers.

Presently, the locals have been forced to purchase plastic potato sacks for rupees three per sack for the purpose of plaiting ropes out of them. These ropes are then sold for a petty gain.

 

-By Nikita Saraf of NewsGram, Twitter: @niki_saraf

 

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Sambhar Lake Becomes Death Bed for Large Number of Birds

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication

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Sambhar Lake
After witnessing drought for many years, this year the Sambhar Lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity. Pixabay

A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. The result came a few days back: thousands of birds were seen floating dead in the lake and their carcasses scattered on the edge of the 12 km catchment area.

The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds.

Harsh Vardhan, a renowned environmentalist, told IANS that no forest department official has ever been appointed to look after the lake. The lake comes under the Hindustan Salt Limited, a public limited enterprise formed in the post independence era to manufacture salt. Its job is to manufacture salt. So who should look after the lake; this has never been decided, he said.

The lake has not been handed to the forest department, and the area, where birds come, is no one’s land. Sambhar lake may be a part of the Hindustan Salt Ltd, but the company has nothing to do with the birds, he says.

The chief wildlife warden Arindam Tomar has maintained silence over the issue.

Even, Principal secretary, forest and environment Shreya Guha has washed her hands off the issue. All that she did was to a give statement that the Jaipur and Nagaur District Collectors have been asked to remove the bodies. She added that 4,800 birds have been dead till date, which is disputed by experts like Harsh Vardhan, who say that counting is not easy in the vast area.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday held a meeting on the issue.

Sambhar Lake
A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. Pixabay

Meanwhile, Harsh Vardhan questioned the presence of several private salt miners and entrepreneurs, who have set shops in and around the lake. “They dig tube wells which suck water from the land making it parched. The remaining water gets evaporated leaving crystal of salts which are packed and sold in gunny bags,” he said.

Lack of water and drought has haunted Sambhar lake for years. State government has been spending huge money to woo tourists through activities like mobiking, balloning, race, Bollywood shoots, etc. A resort on the rim of the lake showcases salt manufacturing for the tourists. Crores of Rupees have been spent on the upkeep of the narrow gauge train and watch stations, but birds and conversation issues were always overlooked.

As Sambhar lake went dry, concentration of salt deposits came up within it. The water from surrounding rivers, meant to flow into the lake, was diverted by the miners.

After witnessing drought for many years, this year the lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity.

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication, Vardhan said.

It seems birds which came in high numbers due to high water quantity this season died due to hypernectermia after consuming their feed which is the planktons, the microrganisms found in water.

Sambhar Lake
The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake i.e Sambhar Lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds. Wikimedia Commons

The only step that has ever been taken by any government in the state was in 1981 when it was decided to designate the site as wetland and was renamed as the Ramsar site.

According to an estimate, around 60,000 birds visited the lake in a year which has come down to less than 20,000.

Vardhan says that if the lake remains with the Hindustan Salt Limited, which has been a loss making unit since years or if it is handed over to the private operators, who do excessive mining of water, then the lake and the birds are sure to die.

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Experts like him want the lake to be handed over to the forest department which can develop it as a wetland. (IANS)