The environment ministry has failed to take adequate measures for the preservation of tigers and its figure of the number of the big cats in the country is “not reliable” as many tiger reserves do not conduct an annual census, said a report tabled in parliament Thursday.
The 'Conservation and Protection of Tigers in Tiger Reserves' report by the Public Accounts Committee, based on an examination of the environment ministry's Project Tiger, found several loopholes in the implementation of the tiger protection and conservation project.
“The ministry's figure of extant population of tigers in wild cannot be said to be reliable and verifiable as census is not conducted annually in many tiger reserves, besides census data is not up to date. Reasons for decrease in number of tigers were never investigated nor analysed,” said the report of the committee chaired by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Gopinath Munde.
The report found that 173 tiger deaths were reported during 1999-2004. Of these, 103 tigers died due to poaching, electrocution and poisoning. Poaching of tigers continued and touched an annual level of 22 over a period of six years.
Project Tiger was launched by the government as a centrally sponsored scheme in 1973 to protect tigers and to ensure a viable population of tigers in the country.
“Fifteen tiger reserves out of 28 had area less than half the prescribed area, which is not conducive for conservation, protection and sustenance of a viable tiger population. Efforts of relocation of people living within tiger reserves as well as removal and prevention of encroachment did not succeed primarily because of lack of resources,” it said.
Criticising the ministry for not keeping up to date information of the number of families to be relocated from tiger reserves, the report said: “The ministry has no clarity on the part of relocated (families) as well as the amount required for their relocation. The relocation of families is going at snail's pace and at this pace it will take more than a decade to shift them from core/buffer areas of tiger reserves.”
The report also found that implementation of Project Tiger was severely hampered due to shortage of staff at various levels in tiger reserves. Besides, the personnel employed were found to be overage, undertrained and ill-equipped.
“The intelligence and communication network at the tiger reserves level was also found to be inadequate and steps for protection of tigers were weak in the absence of measures to combat poaching, lack of adequate arms and ammunition, deficiencies in creation of strike force, poor intelligence gathering and inadequate patrolling camps,” it said.
The committee has asked the ministry to apprise it of the progress made in these areas within the next three months.
In its recommendation, the committee has asked the ministry to lay down a clearcut agenda for the relocation of people from reserves and the involvement of people in protecting tigers.
In the light of dwindling population of tigers, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) may explore launching a national tiger breeding programme and reintroduce these tigers in the wild, it added.