NAGPUR: The tiger population going up in the state from 103 in 2006 to 169 in 2010 may be good news but the bad news is that there can be no policy to protect corridors required for the tigers to disperse for a viable population.
Talking to TOI on Wednesday, Union minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh said protecting corridors was impossible as all development would come to a standstill. "We cannot come out with a policy on corridors," Ramesh stressed.
Today, tigers are facing the biggest threat from shrinking and fragmented corridors between protected areas (PAs) connecting each other. Against this backdrop, Ramesh's statement is disturbing. This is despite the fact that environment minister himself admitting that one-third of the tiger population resides outside protected areas (PAs).
Corridors between Kanha-Nagzira-Pench, Navegaon-Nagzira, Tadoba-Melghat are under threat from encroachments, road widening, mining, power and other developmental projects. Ramesh admits that biggest threat is coal mining for a number of power projects. "But let me tell you that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is not only for protecting tigers but also forests. Tiger is just a symbol â€” if tigers are gone, so will forests," he stated.
Ramesh felt there would be a lot of hue and cry if a policy on corridors was formulated. According to a study by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), there are 89 villages in the Nagzira-Navegaon corridor, which further extends to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur and Indravati Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh. A similar situation prevails in Tadoba-Andhari corridor where there are equal number of villages.
At present, there is no status to corridors between Kanha, Pench, Navegaon and Nagzira, which is roughly 15,000 sq km. After protected areas (PAs), corridors are the main pockets through which genetic breeding takes place. These are the best conservation units for dispersal of tigers.