Tiger Reserve surrounded by coal mines

The 625 square kilometre protected forest in Chandrapur is home to over fifty tigers, a sanctuary shattered by the hostile coal mines that surround it on at least two sides.

Recently the Prime Minster wrote to Maharashtra asking it to notify crucial buffer zones around tiger parks because in the Tadoba Reserve there is a need for more space.It was in this crucial tiger corridor that the Adani coal mine was suppose to come up. The permission was denied by the Union Environment Minister but it continues to raise an important question: Why is the Maharashtra state government continuing to drag its feet for over two years on an important piece of legislation, something that will finally notify these buffer zones.

Buffer zones are specially notified areas around parks or reserve forests that are meant to divide the park from areas of human pressure.  This division is of vital importance as by law any activity like mining or others that destroy the habitat have to be kept at least ten kilometres from the buffer zone which helps protect the parks habitat.

Without this notification the Tadoba buffer zone is not yet legally out of bounds for mines and industries.While mining activity is Tadoba's biggest problem, over the last one year, the man-animal conflict has also escalated particularly in the eastern side of the reserve with 14 people and 4 tigers dead.

President, Tiger Research and Conservation Trust, Harshawardhan Dhanwatey says, "It has 60 odd villages and 20-25 years ago, the population was not more than 100/80 people. Today the population has gone up by three times. The impact of these people on Tadoba is quite a bit. Grazing is a big problem here because there is a lot of cattle that these villages own and it is contributing to the degradation of forest." All this increase the possibility of encounters.

"Unfortunately the status of the forest staff is not up to the mark. At present we have 5 RFO postings out of which 3 are vacant and we want to increase post of RFO, forest guards. Only 34 beats are there so average area of beat is very large. Almost, a beat guard has to protect an average area of 1848 hectares which is certainly a big area to protect," says Sanjay Thakre, Field Director, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve.

It's a miracle that the tiger population has survived these man-made traps when it desperately needs man-made ecological fillip to thrive and grow.


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