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Jailed in Jungle: Why Wild Tigress Languishes in Enclosure, Needs to Be Probed

Two years ago, two wild tigers were relocated from Madhya Pradesh to Odisha under India’s maiden interstate -tiger translocation programme which failed miserably. The two big cats were shifted  to Satkosia tiger reserve in Odisha after its tiger population plummeted  from 11 in 2004 to 2 in 2014. One of the big cats  Mahavir sent from MP was reportedly  killed by poachers while Sundari, the tigress, accused of killing two persons,  landed behind barbed wires in a small  enclosure raising questions over the  wildlife management in the country. Many wildlife experts in  India feel that the Satkosia fiasco should be probed and the people responsible for the plight of the national animal  should be held accountable. Condemned to Captivity Before Sundari was condemned to captivity in  Ghorela enclosure in Mukki range of of Kanha  National park,  the tigress had  already  spent an agonizing period of  28 months in captivity in Satkosia, where it was sent  to find a new home and help populat

Ken-Betwa Project:Dam of Doom for Panna Tiger Reserve

 

As the two states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh signed the controvertial Ken-Betwa linking project (KBLP), considered as an environmental catastrophe, the cost of the trees proposed to be cut is anybody's guess, especially after an expert committee  report submitted in the Supreme Court recently. Besides, the best of tiger country will also be submerged and disconnected from the Panna national park which is all set to bear the brunt. All the good work of the tiger reintroduction programme in the tiger reserve is going to be flowed down in the project water. The number of tigers in Panna varies somewhere around 65-70 which includes 20 cubs.

 Priceless Ecology to be Submerged

A five member committee of experts for the first time set a guideline on the valuation of trees and  submitted a report in the Supreme Court in a case related to West Bengal where 356 trees were required to be felled. The committee told the apex court that a heritage tree with a lifespan of well over 100 years could be valued at more than Rs 1 crore. A tree’s monetary worth is its age multiplied by Rs74,500. The committee added that a heritage tree with a lifespan of well over 100 years could be valued at more than Rs 1 crore -- and that the monetary value of a project, for which hundreds of trees are cut, is sometimes far less than the economic and environmental worth of the felled trees. The total counting of trees in the proposed submergence area of KBLP has not been done but a sample survey by the state forest department has estimated that about 72 lakh trees above 20 cm girth at breast height would submerge in the national park area and this number may go up to about 12 lakh stems when young poles  and established sapling are accounted. “Equally high number of trees will be cut or lost in the forest areas outside the national park. Thus, considerable quantification of carbon stored as biomass would be released once the dam is constructed, in addition to loss of vegetation diversity.  Now, one can imagine value of the trees”, a government report said.

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

In the West Bengal case, the committee recommended ,in case trees must be removed, the first endeavour should be to relocate them, making use of modern technology, and if  there is no other option but to cut them; it also added that planting five saplings in lieu of one tree was not good enough since a 100-year-old tree cannot be equated with a few fresh saplings. It recommended that for a tree with small crown size, 10 saplings should be planted; 25 saplings for a tree with medium crown size; and 50 saplings for a tree with large crown size. Crown is part of the tree from which branches grow above the trunk. Can this be done in the environmental disaster that is all set to unfold in Panna ?

Cliffs and Gorges, all go Under Water

The project involves construction of a large dam at Daudhan village and a 2 km tunnel right inside the core area of  Panna tiger reserve situated in the semi-arid region of the Vindhyan mountain range spread over the Panna and Chhatarpur districts in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh. The terrain here consists of extensive plateaus, rocky cliffs, gorges, caves and rock crevices creating critical habitats for breeding and resting of the key species such as tiger, leopard, hyena, sloth bear and several species of vultures.

 Also read: Panna landscape Needs 2 More National Parks, Not Satellite Tiger Collaring

 The forests along Ken and its tributary form a significant part of the catchment area of the river. Ken Gharial Sanctuary and adjoining forests of the national park offer certain compactness of the habitat. All this is going to be submerged forever, an irreparable loss that can never be compensated.

Project or the Park ?  Shivraj goes for the KBL

"BREATHLESS- Hunted and Hounded, the Tiger Runs for its life", a book on tiger crisis released last year,  dedicated one full chapter “ The Drowning Panna and Dams of Doom” on the KBLP. The book said, “  Daudhan is the first dam which is all set to submerge the green- laboratory where the world's first ever successful experiment of tiger reintroduction plan was experimented and executed. The imminent submergence includes almost 90 sq km area of the Panna National park .This also includes the best of tiger habitat inside the park. Since independent studies have shown that the cost benefit ratio is next to par, given what will be lost, it is hard to see arguments in its favour.”

Also read: From Unknown Tigress of Kanha to Mother of Panna: The Untold Story of T2

Referring to  the haste shown by  the Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan while presiding over a meeting of  the State Wildlife Board,  the book said , “ Regardless of stiff opposition from some non official members, the state wildlife board meeting in Bhopal in 2015 , the chief minister Shivraj Singh pushed the project. Amidst statements from one of the board ,"The nation will have to decide whether to have the project or the park, we cannot have both”, the CM opted for the project”.

In unequivocal terms, some board members opposing the project said, “ the project will mean the end of Panna”. The book also says that ,” At a time of  global warming, successive governments are still pushing the environmentally unviable  projects like KBLP, a scheme that is certain to spell death –knell for the Panna tiger reserve.``

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