Nov 5, 2015
PILIBHIT: The security of 44 tigers in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR) is at stake, as there is a cut in the budget allocation for the reserve under the National Tiger Conservation Authority, and a reduction also in state government funding. There is likelihood that about 150 contract workers engaged in guarding the reserve will be told to go.
Kailash Prakash, DFO, PTR, told TOI, “There is a significant decrease of 27% in the budget allocated to tiger reserves from the NTCA. We will be forced to fire some men for lack of funds.” Besides tigers, the PTR is home to other endangered species like pangolins, forest owl, Bengal bustard, the four-horned antelope, swamp francolin, honey badger and other species. Many animals found in the reserve are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These animals also face a huge threat from poachers. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) had earlier expressed concern about poaching activities in PTR and near forests on the border with Nepal. It had also asked the Sashastra Seema Bal to assist the forest department in safeguarding tigers and other wild animals. Deputy director Nishant Verma of WCCB told TOI, “At present, I don’t have any information about the reduction of security officials in PTR. However, if this news is correct, it will certainly have an adverse effect on security of wildlife. I will discuss the matter with the district forest official soon.” The budget cut could see up to half of all those employed on contract basis – watchmen, wireless operators, gatemen – lose their jobs. The news of the likely job cut comes just days after the PTR showed an increase in the count of tigers, from 28 during the last census four years ago, to 44 at present. In just the last one year, 10 tigers have been poached in PTR.
This year, the budget for Project Tiger was reduced by 15% from Rs 161.01 crore to Rs 136.46 crore. This sum is going to fall sorely short, as there are 48 tiger reserves in the country, which together account for about 69,751.64 square kilometres of forests. The total tiger population in the wild in India was 2,226 in 2014. The forests falling under PTR are divided into ranges, which are further divided into sections or beats. There are 52 beats in PTR, and four people are posted as watchers in each of these. These four work on shifts that rotate, guarding the forests day in and day out. There are 40 gatemen and 46 wireless operators. From November 1, it is likely that half the strength of the security staff will be reduced. PTR staff had sought Rs 3.65 crore for recurring and non-recurring works, including salaries of employees. While recurring expenses include salaries, non-recurring expenses include expenses on building watch towers, quarters for guards, and installing forest lines to prevent the spread of forest fires. NTCA has sanctioned a budget of only Rs 2.57 crore for PTR. What is interesting is that the arrangement is that the state government will contribute an equal share towards all recurring costs. With the reduction in funds from NCTA, the state government too has reduced its contribution, thus compromising the security of the reserve. VK Chopra, conservator of Bareilly division, said, “The budget has been reduced by NTCA as well as the state government. I will write to the wildlife warden of the state to ensure that the budget is increased. This process may take some time.” Cabinet minister and MLA from Pilibhit Riaz Ahmed told TOI, “PTR is a big tourist attraction. I will raise the matter with the chief minister, and the budget constraint will be redressed. The security of PTR will not be compromised.”
As posted in Timesofindia.indiatimes.com