Friday, June 9, 2017

Terai Arc Landscape & Tiger Corridors

Thats Dudhwa my agent pointed out to me. What!Where!" All I could see was some sugar cane fields and grassy patches. Not until we cut through a dense canopy of Sal did I realize that we where at the periphery of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.  

This was, way back few years a ago. The tiger reserve is now home to Rhino after a successful translocation. The reserve is host to the Northern Swamp deer, tigers, hispid hare, pygmy hog, wild elephants and number of mammals besides a large number of bird species. The region holds some of the rare and endangered species.     

Swamp deer was in abundance in old time but due to excess hunting and habitat destruction their population is limited to the tiger reserve. Singhai township is one place I frequently visited, this was once a hunting ground near the tiger reserve, and the name addresses the swamp deer. Singhai means assemblage of horns this is in reference to the rare swamp deer species. Maharajahs and the British favored this place for hunts. Rest is the sordid saga of destruction of wilderness in India.     

The North or Uttar Pradesh is a land of plains and intense agriculture. Heavily populated and urbanised, Dudhwa and adjoining forest patches are few that are left. Thankfully they are under much needed protection as wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves,

Dudhwa now encompasses Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and is connected to Pilibhit Tiger Reserve and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary through narrow corridors - weak and facing human intrusion. On the Nepal side the forest contiguity is provided by Shukla Phanta Wildlife Sanctuary and Bardia National Park.       

The green corridors connect the wildlife heavens but are in much need of protection and care. The corridors are denuded at place but nevertheless animals migrate to adjoining forests in times of stress.

Green corridor that  connects Dudhwa with Shuklaphanta is  Laldhadi. Lagga-Bagga corridor connects Pilibhit to Shuklaphanta. The Kartaniaghat-Khata and Boom-Brahmadev Corridors to Shuklaphanta and Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary. The latter is in Uttarakhand State of India. Bardia National Park in Nepal is connected with Katarniaghat through the Khata Green Corridor. Rhinos migrate to and fro through this corridor.    

Human settlements engulf and intrude the corridors reducing the connectivity and giving rise to frequent man animal conflicts. Many year ago the region had become volatile due to frequent cases of man eating especially at Gola and Mohammdi townships in Lakhimpur Kheri District where Dudhwa TR and Kisanpur WLS are situated. 

Man animal conflicts do occur in recent times but frequency has decreased thanks to greater surveillance and conservation measures.  A lot of work is being done to repair and rejuvenate these vital passages which has resulted in some improvement. The beleaguered wilderness needs much more work to be done if free movement of wild animals has to take place without stress.

Apart from afforestation, resource preservation including water and strict protection management has to be in place if tiger population in Terai Arc Landscape has to bounce back. This region had one time abundant tiger population and a high density of prey base. The resulting denudation has had an adverse impact on the floral characteristic. Human population and land use dynamics in the present circumstances have a negative impact on the habitats resulting in fragmentation affecting the viability of corridors used for migration. Understanding key factors that impact habitats and life forms that inhabit the ecosystems is vital for the conservation ecology of the region as whole.         

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Perspective : Protected Areas In India

Wildlife Protection Act 1972 - Provisions Chapter IV 

Image: Dharamagiri
In order to save the vanishing tiger and other life forms Wildlife Protection Act was constituted in India. This was in the year 1972 and thenceforth hunting of all wild species became illegal and punishable.  Hunting is permitted in extraordinary circumstance especially when an animal has become threat to human lives. Another reason for allowing hunting is in case of excessive damage caused to crops in agriculture fields. This permission is mired in  controversy but instances have occurred wherein it has been granted.    

The act also outlays the concept of National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Often known as protected areas, set of rules and regulations apply to both. Many amendments have taken place since the legislation, but only the concept in brief has been described here.   

Apart from protecting wildlife, the objective through conservation of habitats is to preserve all life forms in India.   

Wildlife Sanctuary 

In case of a Wildlife Sanctuary, the State Government will notify its intent if the area under consideration is of ecological and geological importance with prevalence of diverse life forms that constitute flora and fauna. The notification also specifies the area to be brought under the Wildlife Sanctuary.  

After notification powers are vested with the collector for land acquisition or rights. Continuation of rights under some circumstances with the permission of the Wildlife Warden is possible.    

The status of most of the wildlife sanctuaries in India is anywhere from being protected. Relocation requires political and administrative will which is severely lacking in this context. One of the largest wildlife sanctuary in MP, Nauradehi has more than sixty villages within the confines but no relocation has taken place so far.

In many of the cases there is a lack of funding, or the relocation itself is an immense exercise, hence the status is far away from the protection that is required. As compensation substantial amount is given to evacuee or in lieu a suitable land is awarded.      

Cattle grazing intrusion, illegal logging, poaching and even land use in these sanctuaries is rampant causing disturbance to wildlife which perhaps will never recover until unless corrective steps are taken with urgency. Although there is no dearth of conservation practices wherever enthusiastic staff prevails, increasing population and the uncontrolled resource utilization encumbers protected areas with biotic pressures. Immunization of livestock is also vested in the act. 

National Parks

NPs are notified in the same manner as the wildlife sanctuary, most of the conditions remain the same. Both types of protected areas may also be notified by the Central Government. This type of protected areas are symbol of National pride hence greater degree of protection is accorded to them.

No livestock grazing or other such activities that may be allowed in a sanctuary are permitted in NPs. Land acquisition and translocation are executed with greater urgency in National Parks. They have been better protected as well. The areas that have substantial tiger population have been brought under the aegis of Project Tiger Conservation Programme initiated by the Central Government.      

The success of conservation programs in India is checkered with some areas doing better than before. However large number of areas are facing immense problems as mentioned above. While the tiger population has risen marginally many species of plants and animals are still under the brink of extinction.