India

Maharashtra notifies new wildlife sanctuary, increases area of another

In a big boost for endangered tigers and wild buffaloes, the state government on Thursday notified the 189.29 sq km Umred-Kharangla Wildlife Sanctuary (UKWS) near Nagpur and decided to declare another 187 sq km area in Kolamarka in Gadchiroli as conservation reserve for wild buffaloes.

Earlier, on February 27 and 28, and March 1, 2012, the government had declared four sanctuaries – New Nagzira, New Navegaon, New Bor (all in Vidarbha) and renotified 2 sq km area of Nannaj (Solapur) sanctuary, the best potential area for Great Indian Bustards (GIBs).

With Umred-Kharangla, 520 sq km area has been added to the existing 8,100 sq km area under the protected area (PA) network. At approximately 50 kms, this would be the second-closest sanctuary to Nagpur. The Mansinghdeo Sanctuary, which was notified in November last year, is less than 50 kms away. However, both have a long way to go before tourists can start visiting the sanctuaries.

Decisions in the past few months have shown that the state government is working towards giving a boost to Nagpur which was declared as Gateway to Tiger Country by former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh. However, it has continuously failed to acknowledge the nomenclature either in MTDC websites or in its tourism campaigns.

The total PAs in the state now go up to 40. The notification of new protected areas was necessitated after the government last year de-notified over 7,000 sq km of the Nanaj Sanctuary leading to depletion in total PA area.

The Umred-Kharangla Sanctuary includes 22 reserve forest compartments (61.57 sq km) of Kuhi, Bhiwapur and Paoni ranges; 53 protected forest compartments (116.42 sq km) including 11 compartments of FDCM; 0.94 sq km of revenue forest land and 10.36 sq km of private land. There are four villages inside the sanctuary which will have to relocated.

The Umred-Kharangala forest is also the area (Tass) where a tigress had fallen in a canal of the Gosikhurd dam project late last October. It was rescued and later released in the wild with a radio collar. Confirmation that the area acts as a corridor came when the tigress was monitored having moved close to Tadoba. It later took a U-turn and has probably found shelter in Brahmapuri division.

Following a meeting of the State Wildlife Board, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the tiger population in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur district has increased substantially leading to a spill over.

As a result many animals are straying outside the park, causing increased man-animal conflict. “The extended corridors will now act as a crucial buffer for the animals and reduce the number of accidents caused by such spill overs,” said Chavan. The tiger population in TATR landscape has jumped from 30 in 2000 to over 100 in 2012.

Praveen Pardeshi said a provision of Rs 25 lakh has already been made for water holes and protection in the new Umred-Kharangla sanctuary. “The new sanctuary will act as a gene pool for tigers from where tigers move till Tadoba and Kanha through Navegaon,” said Pardeshi.

Special measures were also announced to provide relief to animal habitat around the highway corridors, including the Mumbai-Delhi Dedicated Freight Corridor and Mumbai-Goa National Highway. On these, underpasses will be created and proposal be forwarded to National Board for Wild Life (NBWL).

It was also decided to provide additional 100 vehicles to range forest officers (RFOs) to strengthen tiger and forest protection. The state also decided to rope in the irrigation and power departments for measures like building cross canals and enhancing high-tension electric lines.

Maharashtra has reported a number of tiger deaths and increased cases of poaching in the recent past forcing the state to contemplate issuing ordered to shoot-at-sight. The issue has also gained political undertones following visit of forest minister Patangrao Kadam and MNS chief Raj Thackeray to the TATR.

Original Story: Times of India