A tiger reserve in Goa still remains a distant dream. To a question by Congress MLA, Vishwajit Rane in the Goa assembly on whether “there was any proposal to declare area for the tiger reserve in the state,” forest minister Alina Saldanha replied with a, “No sir.”
In June 2011, then Union minister for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh had written to then chief minister Digambar Kamat requesting the state to submit a proposal to declare the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary in Sattari as a tiger reserve. While the former government dilly-dallied over the proposal, the new government has not shown any initiative to consider the proposal afresh.
Following the change in government, environmentalists were hopeful that conservation of a ‘resident tiger population’ in Goa would receive a boost.
Though this hasn’t happened yet, there are some prepared to grant more leeway to the new forest minister. “She has taken charge recently and may not have any proposal at the moment,” Goa Foundation’s Claude Alvares said.
He added that given that Mhadei is a protected area, the minister must be aware about the legal position and the Supreme Court order of 2004 rejecting a government proposal to denotify the sanctuary. “Thus, the status of Mhadei WLS is legally clear and cannot be changed. Declaring it a tiger reserve will also not change it, anyway,” Alvares said.
Environmentalists see beneficial effect for Western Ghats Recently, Saldanha had said the forest department is examining a proposal to seek inscription of the Goa stretch of Western Ghats, which are considered as the ‘hotspots’ of bio-diversity, as a world heritage site.Some politicians and others have been raising a bogey about the presence of people within the sanctuary limits. Dismissing this as a ploy to keep the tiger reserve proposal on the backburner, Alvares said hearings by PV Savant, who was appointed revenue officer and collector for the sanctuary about five years back, had revealed that the 117 claims are related to land outside the sanctuary limit.
No claims regarding mining leases in the area have been made, he added. “Why does it take the government 12 years to establish the factual position?” Alvares asked. People’s interest in the land and plantations should be protected, but the fact that some are quoting varying figures of population in sanctuary limits proves vested interests, he added.
Mhadei, Bondla, Molem, Neturlim and Cotigao wildlife sanctuaries form a 700-sq km wildlife corridor linking Bhimgad wildlife sanctuary and Anshi-Dandeli tiger reserve in Karnataka. Looking beyond the issue of carving out space for the big cat in Goa, environmentalists see a beneficial cascading effect for the region.
After Ramesh wrote to Kamat, national board for wildlife (NBWL) member and conservationist, Prerna Singh Bindra also followed up with a request to the then chief minister to consider the merit of the proposal.
“Mhadei is the catchment area of Goa’s lifeline, with important rivers such as Malaprabha, Pandhari, Bailnadi, Tillari and making it a tiger reserve will help consolidate the habitat and address the water security issues of Goa for posterity,” Bindra told TOI on Sunday.
Courtesy : TOI