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Stone Pelting on Tiger Cubs :Kanha Pench Corridor Becomes Conflict Zone

 Two tiger cubs- less than 6 month old- escaped the fury of a 5000 strong mob in a village located in Kanha-Pench corridor . Villagers tried to kill them by pelting stones when the cubs had reached a water body to quench their thirst. This issue  has highlighted again the plight of the fragmented tiger corridors. It also reminds the urgency to restore their sanctity. People Shouted Kill the Cubs Kill the Cubs  Wildlife is most vulnerable during summer, due to scarcity of resources. Water is the key limited resource inside jungles . Special monitoring ofwater holes should be carried out all along the corridors, to effectively deter such incidents, poaching of herbivores and poisoning of tigers and othercarnivores. In the scorching summer, the two cubs also reached a nearby waterbody . In the adjacent forest , the villagers were plucking tendu leaves- a minor forest produce  to  roll beedi , a thin cigarette or mini-cigar filled with tobacco flake and commonly wrapped in a tendu leaf. Th

UNESCO's "Hope for the Planet" Cry doesn't Gel with Ken Betwa Project

UNESCO, Betwa Project, Man and Biosphere Programme, UNESCO New Delhi, Panna Tiger Reserve,  Madhya Pradesh,

When Panna was included as  the 12th  Biosphere Reserve (BR),  it was yet another recognition to  its critical tiger reserve facing threat from a river  linking project and Bunelkhand’s unique ecosystem. “UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme today (October 29) included Panna in India and Fuvahmulah and Addu Atoll (both islands)  in the Maldives, to UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves'', the UNESCO website said.

Sustainability: Hope for the Planets

UNESCO, Betwa Project, Man and Biosphere Programme, UNESCO New Delhi, Panna Tiger Reserve,  Madhya Pradesh,

If we can make sustainability work at a local level, and scientifically document how it works, perhaps there is hope for the planet. That is the task UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme  (MAB) was given by its Member States 49 years ago, ’the website quoted ,Guy Broucke, head of Natural Sciences, UNESCO New Delhi.  Introducing Panna as the new BR, the UNESCO said “Located in the centre of India, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Panna is characterized by forests and marshy vegetation, with an abundance of rare medicinal plants as well as other non-timber forestry products, such as Kattha, gum and resins. It is a critical tiger habitat area and hosts the Panna Tiger Reserve, as well as the World Heritage site of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments. The area has undergone substantial ecosystem restoration in the buffer zone. With only three urban centres and over 300 villages, agriculture is the main source of income, together with horticulture, forestry, and cultural and eco-tourism.”

A Big Question over Ken Betwa Project Again

UNESCO, Betwa Project, Man and Biosphere Programme, UNESCO New Delhi, Panna Tiger Reserve,  Madhya Pradesh,
The first reaction of environmentalists after this acknowledgement is : How would it affect the  controversial Ken-Betwa link project (KBLP) , especially in view of the issues raised by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court in a case related to the project  on  August  30 last year. It questioned the basis on which wildlife clearance was granted to it.  Punching holes in the green clearances given to (KBLP), proposed right inside the  Panna tiger  reserve, by the Union ministry of environment, the CEC of the apex court raised questions about the basic viability of the project.  The report reveals that sustainable and cost-effective alternatives to the Ken-Betwa project have not been considered and the project will impact wildlife like tiger and gharial, whose populations are threatened. The report also noted that felling of over two million trees for the project would be a severe loss and compensatory planting would not be able to recreate existing riverine and forest ecosystems. An estimated  Rs. 280 billion project involves the construction of a 77 metre high and 2,031 m long composite dam across river Ken near village Daudhan in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. Once completed, in an estimated nine years, the dam is expected to provide irrigation facility to 606,980 hectares area, drinking water facility for 1.4 million (14 lakh) people and generation of 78-megawatt hydropower. Water will be transferred through a 221-kilometre long Ken-Betwa Link Canal Phase-l which will be constructed along the left bank of the river Ken. The project is also expected to result in submergence of over 9,000 hectares of area and out of that 5,803 hectares is in the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR).

Also read: Protect This Wildlife Corridor to Save the Ganges

The first river -linking project of India involving the states of  Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh envisages a transfer of surplus water from river Ken’s basin to river Betwa’s basin to provide water in areas in the upper Betwa basin that are facing acute water shortage. That Ken  basin is water –surplus is always contested.  Long back, in 2007, a district collector of Panna shot a letter to the then principal secretary of water resources department and said,” I will not hesitate to say that the first line itself of the feasibility report prepared by the National Water Development Agency is faulty. To say that the Ken Basin is a “Water Surplus” basin is not only totally erroneous, it holds disastrous implications for the residents of Panna district as also other districts of the Ken river basin.”

Questioning the “appropriateness of the wildlife clearances” given to the project , Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams Rivers and people (SANDRP ) also  questioned its “viability, optimality and desirability”. SANDRP is a network of organisations and individuals working on issues related to the water sector, specifically associated with large dams. Thakkar also hoped that  “the government wakes up to the reality and shelves the project and immediately goes for more viable, quicker, cost-effective and less damaging options for Bundelkhand”

Politics Pushes Environmental Issues to Backburner

UNESCO, Betwa Project, Man and Biosphere Programme, UNESCO New Delhi, Panna Tiger Reserve,  Madhya Pradesh,
Meanwhile politicians, especially those linked with the party in power keep raising the issue and talk about its  speedy implementation. Amidst protests from some members of  MP State Wildlife Board,  Shivraj Singh Chouhan   in 2015  as CM  ensured that  it gets  the board’s nod. A book on tiger crisis ,‘ BREATHLESS” –‘ Hunted and Hounded, the Tiger Runs for Its life’ reveals  the inside story of the  Board meeting.  “One of the  non-official members of the Board  said that the nation will have to choose between the project and the park, ”the book written by a Bhopal based journalist said. Chouhan opted for the project.  Recently in an election meeting in Badamalehara ,Chouhan  sought the help of Uma Bharti  to  coordinate a  meeting with his UP counterpart . Chouhan said that he would have a meeting with the chief minister of UP   demanding more water for Madhya Pradesh as  more land of  the state would be submerged . Though Panna BR is much more than the Panna tiger reserve,  the issue of KBLP comes naturally. Panna BR area includes ecologically rich forest pockets of north, south forest divisions, and  the protected areas of Panna district and forest division of Chhatarpur district. Panna BR ,notified by the ministry of environment and forest on  August 25, 2011, represents a unique ecosystem within a narrow belt of table top mountains of  ‘Vindhyan hill ranges’ and part of ‘Bundelkhand’ region. This includes the traditional agro-ecosystems, dry deciduous forests of Teak, Salai, Kardhai, bamboo and mixed types of forests.  The BR includes 3 protected areas Panna national park, Gangau and  Ken-Gharial sanctuaries. The Panna BR consists of three well delineated zones- 792.53 square kms of core area ,989.20 sq kms of buffer and 1219.25 km sq kms of transition zones . After Pachmarhi and Amarkantak BRs, Panna is third in the series highlighting the significance of forests in Madhya Pradesh. But they need to be preserved and protected. And our politicians need to be enlightened over the importance of forests and environment.
Banner picture : Tiger on a rock in Ken river inside Panna national park.Source unknown tourist

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