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The government has trapped Project Tiger, now 50, in a tough spot.

  • Published
    10th Jan, 2024

Violations of the Wildlife (Protection) Act and the Forest Rights Act have exacerbated conflicts in Tiger Reserves between the forest bureaucracy and forest-dwellers

The Complex Dynamics of India's Tiger Conservation: Balancing Successes and Challenges

  • India's Project Tiger, launched in 1973, has been celebrated as a global success story in environmental conservation, but it comes with its set of challenges and conflicts.
  • The subsequent legal frameworks, particularly the Wildlife (Protection) Act and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, have played pivotal roles in shaping the landscape of tiger reserves in the country.

I.   Evolution of Tiger Reserves:

  • 1973 - Project Tiger Inception: Aims and initial implementation.
  • 2006 - Statutory Recognition: Tiger Reserves elevated to statutory status, marking a turning point.
  • 2022 - Impressive Growth: From 9 reserves in 1973 to 54 in 2022, covering 2.38% of India's land area.
  • Tiger Population: 1972 - 1,827 tigers; 2022 - 3,167-3,925 tigers. India claims three-quarters of the world's tiger population.

II.  Legal Framework and Amendments:

  • 1972 - Wildlife (Protection) Act: Establishment of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • 2006 - Tiger Task Force: Acknowledging failures and amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act to create the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
  • 2006 - Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act: Recognizing customary forest rights, introducing 'Critical Wildlife Habitat' (CWH).

III. Critical Tiger Habitats (CTH) and Buffer Areas:

  • Original Intent: Democratic and scientific basis for Tiger Reserves.
  • CWH Establishment: Scientific evidence of irreversible damage guides CTH establishment.
  • Buffer Area Importance: Balancing human-animal coexistence while respecting local rights.
  • Problems in Implementation: Lack of informed consent leading to conflict.

IV.  Relocation and Rehabilitation Challenges:

  • Legal Framework: Provisions of Wildlife (Protection) Act and Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act.
  • Compensation Issues: Discrepancies between legal requirements and government initiatives.
  • Relocation Plans: Limited to the 2008 Revised Guidelines, falling short of legal mandates.

V.   Conflict Resolution and Challenges Ahead:

  • Recognition of Forest Rights: Resistance within Tiger Reserves to the recognition of forest rights.
  • Guidelines for CTH: Conflicting orders and resolutions regarding rights recognition.
  • Environmental Clearance Controversy: Discrepancies in requiring clearances for public utilities.
  • Future Challenges: Anticipating anxiety and conflict as tiger habitats expand.

Way Forward:

  • India's journey in tiger conservation reflects a delicate balance between environmental preservation and the rights of indigenous communities.
  • As tiger habitats grow, the need for a comprehensive and inclusive approach becomes paramount to avoid conflicts that could undermine the success of Project Tiger.
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