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50 Years of Project Tiger

Context:

Launched in 1973, Project Tiger introduced India’s Tiger Reserves – which have since rapidly ascended in status.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Project Tiger
  2. Post Project Tiger Launch Developments
  3. Success Story of Project Tiger
  4. Concerns Regarding India’s Tiger Protection and Conservation Plans

Project Tiger

Introduction:

  • Project Tiger is a conservation program launched by the Indian government on April 1, 1973, to protect tigers from extinction due to widespread hunting and poaching.

Objectives:

  • The primary objectives of Project Tiger are to promote the conservation of the tiger and its habitat, control the poaching of tigers, and maintain a viable population of tigers in India.

Implementation:

  • The program was started in nine tiger reserves of different states in India, covering over 14,000 sq km.
  • The project also ensured the preservation of the natural habitat of tigers, which is vital for their survival.

Success and Challenges:

  • The program’s success was evident from the rise in the tiger population in India, estimated to be around 3,000 by the 1990s.
  • However, the local extermination of tigers in Rajasthan’s Sariska in 2005 was a significant setback.
  • To overcome the challenge, the Indian government established the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to reconstitute Project Tiger.

Current Status:

  • Today, there are 54 tiger reserves across India, spanning 75,000 sq km.
  • The current tiger population in the country stands at 3,167, showing a steady rise from 1,411 in 2006, 1,706 in 2010, and 2,226 in 2014.
  • The goal of Project Tiger is to have a viable and sustainable tiger population in tiger habitats based on a scientifically calculated carrying capacity.

Post Project Tiger Launch Developments:

Formation of Tiger Task Force (2005):

  • In response to concerns about the existence of tigers in Sariska, a 5-member Tiger Task Force was appointed in 2005.
  • The Task Force highlighted the growing conflict between the forest bureaucracy and local communities coexisting with tigers.

Amendment of WLPA (2006):

  • The Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) was amended in 2006, leading to the creation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and a tiger conservation plan.
  • Tiger Reserves transitioned from an administrative to a statutory category in 2006.

Enactment of Forest Rights Act (2006):

  • The Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 recognized customary and traditional forest rights, both individual and community, in all forest lands, including Tiger Reserves.
  • Gram Sabha, at the habitation level, was empowered to determine and demarcate forest rights under FRA.
  • FRA secured the livelihoods of millions, including tribal populations, in numerous villages.
  • Introduced a ‘Critical Wildlife Habitat’ (CWH) with the distinction that once notified, it couldn’t be diverted for non-forestry purposes.

Success Story of Project Tiger:

Global Recognition:

  • Tiger Reserves are internationally acclaimed as India’s environmental and forest conservation success story.
  • Started with 9 Reserves covering 9,115 sq. km in 1973, there are now 54 in 18 States, spanning 78,135.9 sq. km (2.38% of India’s land area).
  • Critical Tiger Habitats (CTHs) cover 42,913.37 sq. km (26% of the area under National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries).

Tiger Population Growth:

  • Tiger Census 2022 reported 3,167-3,925 tigers in India, with an annual population growth of 6.1%.
  • India claims to host 3/4th of the world’s tiger population.

Technological Advancements – M-STrIPES:

  • M-STrIPES, a software-based monitoring system developed in 2010 by NTCA, assists in patrolling and protecting tiger habitats.

Concerns Regarding India’s Tiger Protection and Conservation Plans:

Buffer Area’s Intended Purpose:

  • The Buffer Area outside the Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) aims to foster human-animal coexistence while respecting the rights of local communities in terms of livelihood, development, social, and cultural aspects.
  • However, the overarching ‘fortress conservation’ strategy has inadvertently displaced communities that historically coexisted with tigers.

Long-Term Consequences of ‘Fortress Conservation’:

  • The ‘fortress conservation’ approach has led to a rise in man-wildlife conflict incidents as tigers are compelled to inhabit and inherit landscapes that disrupt their natural coexistence with local populations.
  • The proliferation of tigers, Tiger Reserves, and connecting corridors is turning India’s tiger territory into a potential hotspot for conflict rather than biodiversity.

Legal Frameworks and Relocation:

  • The Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) prohibits relocation, except for “voluntary relocation on mutually agreed terms and conditions” that adhere to legal requirements.
  • According to the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act 2013, relocation mandates the consent of affected communities.
  • The LARR Act necessitates a comprehensive rehabilitation package, offering financial compensation and ensuring secure livelihoods for those subject to relocation.
  • However, these legal provisions are not consistently adhered to in practice, raising concerns about their effective implementation.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express


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