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Prep Before Cheetahs Become Free Ranging In Kuno National Park

  When another male cheetah, Obaan,joined the two rock stars – Freddie and Elton -- in yet another bigger enclosure of Kuno national park on November 18, only five female cheetahs remained in smaller bomas in the park where they were released on September 17. Like the three males, the five female spotted cats will also be released soon in larger bomas to run and chase their prey to kill. India’s  wildlife authorities accompanied by the experts from the cheetah conservation fund (CCF) from Namibia   have been taking utmost care and caution  before the  cheetahs in Kuno are ultimately made “free -ranging” meaning released in open to move around the entire length and breadth of the park. “Free ranging cheetahs and their monitoring  will be like a grand finale of the Project Cheetah to be played in Kuno for a longer  period in the coming years'", said a senior official of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFC&C).  Apprehensions, Concerns  on Chee

Future Tense: Turbulent Time Ahead for Panna Tigers

Unaware of the fact that countdown to destruction of Panna tiger reserve has begun after signing of Ken Betwa Link Project (KBLP) , yet another tigress has given birth to two cubs, filmed and photographed by tourists on April 9.  The cubs were seen walking in the emerald forests with their mother code named T-151. In the past 4 months, about 15 new cubs were spotted in Panna national park. What would be the fate  of these cubs in the light  of the KBLP , hash tagged as dam of doom by the  wildlife lovers across the country ,is uncertain. In all ,there are about 65 to 70 tigers in Panna including the cubs.

Final Approval of Green Clearances Still Awaited
By the time the cubs  grow up , the process of the execution of the project would have begun and it would be the time to face the rising water in their habitat . Though the  government has not yet announced a date when it wants to launch the project, it said the project would be kicked off soon. In fact, the final approval of various green clearances is awaited and hence the delay. “The KBLP does not have the final forest clearance, and its wildlife clearance has been opposed by the Supreme Court -empowered Central Empowered Committee (CEC) , says Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) .  Besides,  its environment clearance  was challenged before the National Green Tribunal and the case is still pending. “Should the Prime Minister be endorsing a project ( he was present while the MP UP CMs signed an MOA  in an online event on March 22) that does not have all the statutory clearances, when a legal challenge to its available clearances is pending before various judicial bodies?”, Thakkar asked.

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

There is another interesting aspect about the , as environmentalists  say, " disaster in the making project". The CEC  in a report of August 30, 2019, had raised fundamental questions not only on the appropriateness of the wildlife clearance given to the project, but also the viability, optimality and desirability of the project. It is estimated that the KBLP will lead to a loss of “10,500 hectares of wildlife habitat” in the Panna Tiger Reserve. The National Water Development Agency (NWDA)are yet to provide a detailed response to the report and the court is yet to hear the matter.

KBLP: Bundle of Contradictions

That the project is full of contradictions is gauged from the fact that the minutes of the Forest Advisory Committee meeting held on March 30, 2017  says, “ the project is economically unviable” . The minutes notes: “The construction of the dam on site within Panna Tiger Reserve is not the best possible option… the total project cost has not included the cost of ecosystem services lost due to the diversion of forest… If the cost of ecosystem services lost is considered then the benefit/cost ratio will be very less, making the project economically unviable.”

Also read: Cry to Save Panna from Ken Betwa Project Gets Louder

The Stage I forest clearance from May 27, 2017 is based also on a number of conditions that will require fundamental restructuring of the current project, including change in project costs, benefits and impacts and hence will require a fresh appraisal. Such conditions include the stipulation that the proposed 78 MW powerhouse shall not be constructed in the forest area. Meanwhile, people in Panna and various other parts of the country, people have joined hands in protest against the project.  They include the 'maharani' of the ex -royales of Panna  to the aam aadmi of the region.

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