States with declining tiger population have highest diversion of forests for mining

Data shows that Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Telangana and Andhra lost forest land to mining during the period their tiger numbers declined

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Wednesday 31 July 2019
A signboard in Simlipal Tiger Reserve, Odisha, one of the states with a declining tiger population. Photo: Getty Images
A signboard in Simlipal Tiger Reserve, Odisha, one of the states with a declining tiger population. Photo: Getty Images A signboard in Simlipal Tiger Reserve, Odisha, one of the states with a declining tiger population. Photo: Getty Images

The five states in India which have the largest amount of forest land diverted for mining are also the states which have registered a decline in their tiger populations in the recent national tiger census.

Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have recorded a decline in their tiger populations, according to The Status of Tiger in India, 2018 released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 29, 2019.

According to the report, in Chhattisgarh, the tiger population declined from 26 in 2006 to 19 in 2018. Odisha’s tiger population dropped from 45 to 28 in the same period, while the figures for Jharkhand decreased from 10 in 2010 to 5 in 2018.

Moreover, no evidence of tigers was found in the only Tiger Reserve (TR) in Jharkhand, Palamu, one of earliest TRs to be notified in the country.

Nishant Verma, DIG, National Tiger Conservation Authority, the statutory body under the Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) for the conservation of tigers in India, said the body was looking into the decline of tiger populations in the three states.

This needs to be studied in detail and once that is done, we’ll definitely bring in management interventions and provide states with the help they need to increase tiger populations, he said.

In united Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the tiger population was 95 in 2006. However, this came down to 74 in 2018 (48 in Andhra Pradesh and 26 in Telangana).

The data on forest land diversion for mining between 2015 and 2018 shows that Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have had the highest amount of forest land diversions for mining.

The data was given by the MoEF&CC in response to a Parliamentary question on February 2, 2018.

According to the data, between 2015 and 2018, around 2,628 hectares of land was diverted in Odisha for mining, while the figure stood at 1,657 hectares for Chhattisgarh. The forest land diversion for mining was also high in Andhra Pradesh (1,241 hectares) and Telangana (1,930 hectares).   

“You could make that relation between forest land diversion and decline in tiger population. But you’ll have to find the areas where diversion has taken place. We haven’t looked at this relation for our report, but it is true for any wildlife species that if forest land is lost then it negatively impacts wildlife,” Yadvendradev Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India, who was part of the team that drafted the report, said.

“Ad hoc diversion of forests has direct impacts namely loss of habitat and/or corridors and fragmentation which is a serious threat due to the creation of new forest edges,” said Praveen Bhargav of Wildlife First, a wildlife organisation based out of Bengaluru.

"With roads penetrating deeper, the threat of hunting and conflict increases several fold. The National Board for Wildlife and the Forest Advisory Committee have literally been converted into clearing houses for projects which must be immediately addressed to ensure that important tiger habitats and connectivity are not fragmented,” he added.

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