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Red Threat on Tiger Census

Ahead of the ambitious tiger census in 2022, there are disturbing reports of disruption in the counting of the big cats in Palamu tiger reserve located in Jharkhand where  Naxalites have yet again threatened the tiger estimation work. Last year there were reports that the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) officials were allegedly taken hostage by the left wing ultras in Palamu when they were carrying out the work of setting up cameras in the jungle to capture the images of the tigers for the census. However, they were released later.  Palamu is not the only tiger reserve  in India facing the red threat. Indravati national park in Chattisgarh, now considered as a Naxal hotspot, and Similipal in Odisha are some other national parks where the Naxals  have affected the wildlife conservation projects. 2022 is an important year for tiger conservation as the tiger range countries – mainly the countries where the big cat is found  in South East Asia  and the Russian Far East - had  decided in

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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