FOR THE WILD HERE ANYWAY?
Hardly a week passes without the emanation of some
distressing news that spells huge setbacks for wildlife conservation in
the country. The regularity with which wildlife is being assailed by
forces inimical to it, and the stark failure of agencies established to
manage and protect it, makes it all the more traumatic.
the scene shifts to neighbouring Uttaranchal where two unconnected
incidents give us reason to believe that the dismal track record of
wildlife and forest conservation, which the nascent state has generated
till date, is surely not on the upswing.
incident that obviously needs first mention is the killing of two male
elephants in the Rajaji national park two days ago. As it happened in
Corbett national park during the culmination of last year and the early
months of this one, poachers have been successful in intruding into the
Rajaji national park and killing the elephants for their tusks.
According to reports, this time the poachers did not resort to the gun,
but used poison instead, to kill these tuskers near the Kunao forest
range, close to the town of Rishikesh.
happens in the aftermath of any disaster or crime, this incident too
will be followed by routine motions like combing operations by a motley
posse of security forces and forest guards, unconvincing sound bytes
from people in the ‘know’, and a temporary ‘upping’ of the guard all
around the state, before fleeting memory brings on relaxation to us, and
respite to the poacher before he strikes again at our amnesia.
incident that has the future potential of delivering a deathly blow to
Corbett Tiger Reserve, is the introduction of a public bus service
between Kalagarh and Ramnagar via Jhirna, on the forest road lying in
the southern boundary of the reserve. For starters, this bus has been
assigned a single return trip on the 40-odd kilometre route, but the
matter for concern lies in the fact that this road had been closed to
public transport since it was taken over by the forest department
subsequent to the relocation of villages at Jhirna and Kothi Rau in the
early '90s. As a result, this area has seen a rapid return to
wilderness, with tigers and elephants regularly frequenting it on their
of disturbance that public transport would bring in its wake for the
wildlife of that area is positively going to border on the extreme.
However, what is again a painful reminder of our own amnesia, is that it
was only April this year when the Supreme Court had taken note of the
tree felling on this proposed Kotdwar-Kalagarh-Ramnagar highway, and
ordered restraint on further such activity. That order had been passed
by the Court after it had been made to understand that this activity
would be a long-time detriment for the Corbett Tiger Reserve, and the
wildlife it contained.
that order was celebrated by all of us as a definite victory for
wildlife conservation, but with the introduction of this bus service, it
now seems that we'll live to see that advantage frittering away, as this
highway comes into being. To the credit or discredit of the planners, it
may be conceded that this route alignment is unfortunately much too
direct and short for the Uttaranchal government to give it up - Corbett
or no Corbett. What must have determined the ultimate decision in this
issue was probably their contention that use of this route is ideally
aligned to save Uttaranchal transporters and passengers from a longer
circuit, and also pre-empts their use (and consequent tax liability) of
the existing Uttar Pradesh roads between Kalagarh and Ramnagar. It is
virtually established that if this issue of taxation were to be
resolved, the need for using this forest road could have been kept on
the back-burner, where it actually belongs.
And so the
cookie crumbles for the wildlife of Uttaranchal. How unfortunate that it
has to contend with silly, man-made boundaries between the states of the
country, which render us so far apart