Published: Friday 15 March 1996

Project exit shall persist

A misreported piece of news on the Simlipal Tiger Reserve (STR) has caught my attention (Down To Earth, Vol 4, No 16). The misrepresentation of facts by the author of the news item is highly damaging to the cause of conservation. I would like to remove certain misconceptions from the minds of the readers as well as the author.

In accordance with the guidelines of the Government of India, inspired by the, 18th meeting of the steering committee, Project Tiger, held on January 6, 1977, and as per the prescriptions of the management plan of the sTR, only the four villages, of Kabataghai, Jamunagarh, Jenabil and Bakua afe to be relocated outside the reserve. These villages are located in the corezone -while there are 61 more in the entire sanctuary. The state government had decided to relocate these four villages onjuly 4, 1988. The estimates committee of the Orissa Legislative Assembly (oLA), during its visit in the month of February 1994, had wanted to shift at least one village by March 1994. However, the house committee of the oLA on environment, during its Visit to tile STR 'in the month of June 1994, decided to shift at least three villages simultaneously. In pursuance of the above instructions, all formalities with, respect to Jenabil,"Jamunagarh ' and Kabatghai have been completed to shift the 119 families.

It is untrue that the.villages in the core zone are "far away" fror%eich other and do not warrant a relocation. Moreover, the World Bank (wB) has not resisted relocation in any manner. It has only insisted that it be voluntary. It is precisel@ due to this that the relocation has taken so long. Motivating the people to shift out of the sanctuary is a time-consuming task that demands patience. It cannot be compared with situations like the construction of hydel projects which involve many interest groups like politicians and contractors. Hundreds of villagers coming in the way of these projects are noiselessly shifted.out almost overnight.

Contrary to such'& situation, the relocation from Simlipal is progressing on a voluntary basis. Around 41 families belonging to the Kharia tribe have been shifted from Kabataghai and, Jamunag4rh'to Kaband, a rehabilitation colony developed. three km away from Jashipur,'on the north-westem entrance of Simlipal. Othqs who have received the compensation amount are just waiting for certain formalities to be completed. In Amdiha and Nabra near Udala, 71.55 ha and 98.13 ha respectively have been dereserved and cleared by the Government of India under the Forest Conservation Act for the purpose of rehabilitation- since November 13, 1982.

The Government of India released an amount of Rs 46,74,319 which has been deposited with the collector of Mayurbhanj for executing the shifting of these villages.

Fifty houses at Amdiha and 45 at Kaband have been constructed for the resettlement of the evacuees. Arrangements have been made to dovetail various other schemes to provide. them ample employment oppurtunities.

So, in no case are the forest department officers in a dilemmadue to any reversal in the state goverriTnent's or WB's policies.

The shifting of these villages is absolutely necessary for the following reasons:

The core ofthe STR cannot be constituted into a national park under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, unless these four villages are shifted.

Due to the inaccessibility of these areas, it is not feasible to extend development activities under the various schemes of the government to these villages. As a result, these people are Aeprived'of amenities like education and health care.

Unless the villages are shifted, infiltration by poachers cannot be stopped.

Activities of the villagers often lead to forest fires. Recurring fires will result in a reduction in biodiversity. The akhand shikar (a tribal hunting ritual), which takes a toll of hundreds of animals, cannot be curbed unless these villages are shifted.

The population of the people living in the 65 villages of the STR has increased by 40 per cent during the time Project Tiger 1995 tiger census counted 97 tigers and 100 leopards in the STR. Data from 1989 to 1995 indicate that the tiger and leopard population has more or less stabilised in the area, while there is an increase in human population. Therefore, the areas inhabited by humans and the ones avoided by the tigers have increased so much that the ecological space available to each tiger has decreased.

And after all, only four villages inhabited by 119 families (576 individuals) are being relocated for a greater cause. Should not such a cause rise above all kinds of controversies?

Field director
Simlipal Tiger Reserve
Baripada 757002

The article “Green justice: up in smoke” (Down To Earth, Vol 4, No 9) had quoted a person who alleged that the owner of United Phosphorous Limited was the brother of Dawood Ibrahim. After having verified and checked the same with our source of information, it has been found that the allegation is baseless. The error is regretted.

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