More tiger conservation bodies must be enablers

Hindustan Times

Valmik Thapar

If a complete revamp does not happen, the future of the tiger will be totally dependent on the ability of the states

IN 1992 I joined the steering committee of Project Tiger at the invitation of Kamal Nath, the then minister of environment and forests. He made it clear to all of us that non-governmental experts who served the committee should travel extensively to all the tiger reserves, solve their problems and enable them to flourish. Till 2007, I did nothing else and our committee was known to be a bunch of experts that could really help. We worked through many a crisis including the extinction of tigers in Sariska and Panna. I served on the Prime Minister’s Tiger Task Force in an effort to usher in change. But there were many in the government who wanted more powers for the federal structure and soon came the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). It was born in 2006-2007 and was empowered under the Wildlife Protection Act. A poorly drafted document now purported to give the federal structure of the NTCA enormous powers of providing the states with mandatory advice. Instead of an enabler, the structure created became an unquestionable authority.

Over the next few years, huge compendiums of advisories were created for the ever-increasing tiger reserves. They were rarely site-specific. They generalised and those giving advice were seldom those who understood the tiger’s needs. It was as if the federal structure was on a power trip. Many of those who ruled the NTCA had forgotten the earlier years. Now targets became vital and more and more tiger reserves were declared with either no tigers in them or with less than five tigers in them such as Mukundra. No one was held answerable for the debacles in Panna and Sariska.

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