A proposal to set up the 800 sq km Sahyadri tiger reserve in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra is getting finishing touches. Sahyadri will be the state's fourth tiger reserve. "The state will submit the proposal to the National Tiger Conservation Authority which declares tiger reserves in the country," the conservator of forest (wildlife), Kolhapur division, M K Rao said. The new tiger reserve would fall under his jurisdiction.
The proposal shows the reserve will include an already notified about 320 sq km of Chandoli national park in Sangli district and more than 400 sq km in the Koyna wildlife sanctuary in Satara district. In between these two protected areas, there will be a small corridor which will also form a part of the new reserve. This corridor falls under reserve forest category and is managed by territorial forest division. It also includes two villages. "Once notified, the entire 800 sq km area will come under the jurisdiction of Project Tiger," Rao said.
"Tigers have recently been spotted in this area and this is their new home outside central India. We must make it inviolate. Tigers need inviolate areas to breed and survive. Human interference is detrimental," he added.
The state government has reworked the proposal under the centre's recently declared critical wildlife habitats notification. Conservationists have been demanding a tiger reserve in Sahyadri for the past four years, but the state government dropped the demand twice since it felt creating an inviolate area would affect local villages.
The proposed reserve includes 48 villages. Of these, people from 32 villages have already been relocated. "We plan to relocate one village per year.Villagers prefer to move out since infrastructure facilities are less in the forest," says Rao. Given Rao's estimates, it will take at least 16 years to make Sahyadri an inviolate area. Nevertheless, many feel this is not going to be an easy task considering that relocating people for tiger reserves has not been successful in the region (See 'Melghat malaise', Down To Earth, July 31, 2005).
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