TADOBA LOCALS SHARE IN TIGER TOURISM MONEY - 16th April 2012

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN
NAGPUR: Two years ago, when the buffer zone to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) was to be notified, villagers in the area opposed the move. They thought the decision would put restrictions on them. Instead, tigers are bringing money for these very villages in the buffer zone of TATR.

The TATR has recently released Rs 27 lakh (one lakh = 100 000 rupees) to 53 villages in the periphery of TATR. Besides, Rs 1.30 crore (one crore = 10 000 000 rupees) has also been released under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) for various developmental works.
"The money was collected by us from tourism receipts in the last two years and deposited in the tiger conservation foundation (TCF)," said V K Sinha, chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director of TATR. "This is one of the reasons why we increased gate fee to Rs 500," he added.

This is for the first time that buffer villages have got their share in tourism money. The amount was deposited in the bank accounts of eco-development committees (EDCs), joint forest management committees (JFMCs) and forest protection committees (FPCs). Of the 53 villages, 16 have EDCs while others have JFMC and FPCs.
"We have fulfilled our promise made last year to the villagers," said Sinha. It is learnt that business majors BILT and Western Coalfields Limited (WCL) have also offered help to villages in buffer.

Notifying buffer zones around tiger reserves has become mandatory under the tiger conservation plan (TCP) after amendments in Section 38V of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) on September 4, 2006. The TCP aims at protection of tiger reserve and providing site specific habitat inputs for a viable population of tigers, co-predators and prey animals.
The villages include Bhagwanpur in Mul where Botezari and part of Kolsa villages inside TATR have been resettled. "There was a demand for solar lights in Bhagwanpur. The amount will be utilised for that," said Sinha.

Most of the amount will be spent on procuring cooking gas as these villages put huge biotic pressure on forests for firewood. These villages are in the process of finalizing their micro plans after which more aid is expected.

An amount of Rs 3.50 lakh has also been granted under the centrally sponsored scheme (CSS) to repair gobar gas units in villages around Tadoba. These units were non-functional for years together for want of spare parts.

"...if not much, Rs 51,000 can help at least 17 villagers procure cooking gas. We've asked the committees not to make any discrimination while preparing list of beneficiaries. More money from other government sources will flow in," Sinha told TOI.
Bandu Dhotre, founder of wildlife protection NGO Eco-Pro, hailed the move. "It will ensure integrity of TATR and promote co-existence between wildlife and human activity," Dhotre said

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