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Are Lion Tailed Macaque More Fortunate than Panna Tigers: A Tale of Two Projects

Almost a  year after the Karnataka high court stayed the project that had further threatened the already endangered lion tailed macaque (LTM) ((Macaca silenus), endemic to the Sharavathi river valley nestled in the Western Ghats; the sword of Damocles continues to hang over the primates. The Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) had launched a geothermal survey  with heavy machines to ascertain if the 2000 MW underground pump storage hydro-electric project was feasible. Besides LTM, the Sharavathi river valley is also home to a diverse array of species and sustains very rich biodiversity. Though the  court stay continues, the south Indian state has not yet withdrawn the project. For the time being, the power project may not have been in the priority list of the government after the change in the political guard, it continues to stare at LTM menacingly. Sharavathi Valley, a Jewel in the Western Ghats The project was proposed within the core area of 902 sq km in the Sharavathi Valle

Diamond Digging To Destroy Tiger Corridor In Bundelkhand



Almost 8 months after inclusion in the list of UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves, Bundelkhand’s unique ecology and heritage are all set to be ravaged. A river linking project with a proposed cutting of almost 20 lakh trees has already endangered the home of the tigers of Panna. Another 2.5 lakh trees are going to be felled to give way to a diamond project which is all set to devastate further a tiger corridor. And the way things are heading, digging for diamonds may begin soon. This is an important tiger corridor used by the big cats dispersing from Panna tiger reserve to other jungles. The peregrination of Panna’s legendry T3 male and P211 among others through the woods of Buxwah has already been recorded in the past.

Tigers Frequent Through Buxwah Forests

Much has already been written about the about the controversial river linking project which experts feel is going to be a bane and not a boon for the drought prone Bundelkhand.  This is going to submerge the best of tiger habitat in Panna national park threatening the very existence of the big cats. Besides, this would cause an irreparable loss to the flora and fauna of Panna.  As if it was not enough.  The diamond digging in Buxwah and the tree felling would block the tiger corridor, important for  the conservation of the big cat. “This means the tigers dispersing from Panna to jungles like Nauradehi and neighbouring region would not be able to do so”, said an official of the forest department of MP.   Several tigers have used this corridor to navigate across the jungles. This includes T3 and P211.  

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

After all the tigers vanished from Panna in 2008 allegedly because of poaching, one female each from Bandhavgarh National Park – coded as T1 -and Kanha National Park (T2) were translocated to Panna. Coded T3- the male tiger was brought from Pench tiger reserve.  In the last week of November 2009, T3 started walking southward indicating homing instinct.  As T3 started walking back to Pench tiger reserve and covered 70 km, he crossed Buxwah. A meeting of  Panna tiger reserve with National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) was also held in Buxwah to decide  the risks  involved in the third tranqualisation of the tiger  in a short span of time . In another instance, Panna’s great wanderer, P211, a male tiger   crossed Buxwah as it moved out from the jungle. P211 was found near Shahgarh in Sagar district. T3 had sired most of the litters produced under the ambitious Panna tiger reintroduction project. More than 32 cubs were born in 14 litters since December 2009 and 6 of them died. Of these, 7 tigers made the entire Bundelkhand region their territory while a family of 22 tigers still roams around Panna. In all there are over 60 tigers in Panna .The two projects have jeopardized their existence.

Economy versus Environment: The Latter Looks Loser 

Unfortunately, the destruction will not stop here. Forests are threatened by three projects in three different directions around Panna tiger reserve where a large number of trees are required to be cut. Thousands of  trees have already been cut to give way to Runj irrigation project built over Runj – a seasonal river- a tributary of Bhagain river which ultimately confluences with the Yamuna. It would submerge about 155 hectares of forest land in North of Panna, 10 kms away from the Panna tiger reserve. The other two projects are Ken Betwa river link project and Bunder  diamond project in Buxwah. Politicians said that these projects would bring prosperity in the region. 

Also read: Future Tense: Turbulent Time Ahead for Panna Tigers

There will be no scarcity of drinking water and plenty is available for irrigation. But environmentalists question the projects. The debate over economics versus environment goes on. There may not be guarantee of economic benefits but environmental degradation looks certain. Big questions related to river linking project have not been answered. Irrigation potential of Runj project is yet to be exploited and no one knows about whether the glitter of diamonds would ever alleviate the poverty of the region.

Buxwah: A Rich Biodiversity 

Buxwah is a water stressed and drought prone town of Chattarpur bordering Damoh district housing Nauradehi sanctuary. So is the whole of Bundelkhand.  It is estimated that the Bunder diamond block has about 34 million carats of rough diamonds deposited in a forested area of Buxwah with fairly good variety of fauna, including seven species listed in Schedule I of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. They include Indian Gazelle, Chowsingha(four horned antelope), Sloth Bear, Leopard, Monitor Lizard, Indian Rumped Vulture and Peacock.  The whole area proposed for a mining lease is part of the roughly 3,000 hectare Buxwaha protected forests. Of the total, 364 hectares is for the Bunder mining project, named so after sighting of monkeys when the area was fist surveyed. The tree species found in the area are Khair (Acacia Catechu), Bel (Aegle Marmelos), Dhava (Anogeissus latifolia), Seja (Lagerstroemia Parviflora), Ghoat (Randia dumetorum), Renjha (Acacia leucophloea), Amltas (Cassia Fistula) and Teak or Sagaun   (Tectona Grandis).  

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

A pre-feasibility report of the project said the water requirement of the project was estimated at about 5.9 million cubic meters per day. The forest’s seasonal water streams are a source of groundwater recharge and contribute to Betwa River, considered as a lifeline of Bundelkhand.    Already declared a semi-critical by the Central Ground Water Authority, Buxwah region would have an irreparable loss after deforestation and  the  situation may deteriorate after decline in water table. 

Reprentational pictures

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