At the beginning of 19th century, there are about 40000 tigers spread throughout in India. Till 1972, their population depleted sharply to 1800 in complete India. Those figures were alarm call for Indian government. Current prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi took personal interest in the matter and took some solid steps in year 1972 to revival of tiger population in India.
As a result of such steps, a wildlife conservation project was launched in 1st April, 1973 and was given name “Project Tiger”. It was proved most successful wildlife conservation with the passage of time and served the purpose of its creation.
Project Tiger was a centrally sponsored scheme of Government of India. Its main objective was to ensure revival of Tiger population in India. It further includes management of wildlife, site-specific eco-development & site specific protection measures to provide alternate solution to local villagers so that they would not enter into tiger reserve for their household needs.When project was launched, nine prominent National Parks were included comprising 268 tigers. Among them Kanha National Park was from Madhya Pradesh. Since then, Project Tiger has covered long distance of success. At present counting of Tiger Reserves has rose to 27 comprising 1497 tigers. Land available to tiger reserves has also been increased from 16339 sq.km.(among 9 tiger reserves) to 37761 sq.km. (among 27 tiger reserves).
Project tiger has worked with the objective to relieve certain area of Tiger Reserve from biotic disturbances and forestry operations like grazing, human disturbance, collection of minor forest produce, commercial activities etc. At the same time if there is any village lies in that area, seek for relocation of such villages to distant place. Such disturbance free area was named “Core Zone” of Tiger reserve. Similarly adjoining area of core-zone was acquired to provide habitat supplement to over population of wild animals, grazing to adjoining village cattle, for commercial wildlife resorts, settlement of relocated villages etc. Such adjoining area of core zone was named “Buffer Zone” of tiger reserve.
Project has also aimed to seek due cooperation and coordination of local villagers in objective of wildlife conservation in Tiger Reserve. There are many labour intensive activities in tiger reserves like patrolling, tiger tracking, forest guarding, track maintenance etc in which local villagers can play vital role and participation in wildlife conservation programmes of Project Tiger. Such participation will create awareness among them for wildlife conservation and make them feel as if success of such government projects is in their own benefit & favour.
Initiatives taken by project Tiger :
In an Animal Planet special named Tiger Zero, Indian naturalist Valmik Thapar has said that for several years, Project Tiger officials have inflated India's wild tiger numbers so as to save their jobs. Furthermore, all the tigers in Sariska & Panna Tiger Reserve have been poached, showing the ineffectiveness in this case of Project Tiger. In recent years, as per latest census of Indian Tigers have proved that Project Tiger has lost the aim for which it was launched. Latest tiger census have proved that the milestones achieved by Project Tiger in last decades have been nullified in last 7-8years. Current Tiger populations is almost equivalent to the count of 1972 censes, which means we are back to the same position again. A recent article in Tehelka dwells on the odds faced by under-equipped and under-paid forest rangers in the fight to save the tiger population.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 is being amended to provide for constituting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority responsible for implementation of Project Tiger Plan to protect endangered tigers. The National Tiger Conservation Authority would be set up under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Environment & Forests. The Authority will have eight experts or professionals having qualifications and experience in wildlife conservation and welfare of people including tribals, apart from three Members of Parliament of whom two will be elected by the House of the People and one by the Council of States. The Inspector General of Forests, in-charge of project Tiger, will be ex-officio Member Secretary.
The Authority, interalia, would lay down normative standards, guidelines for tiger conservation in the Tiger Reserves, apart from National Parks and Sanctuaries. It would provide information on protection measures including future conservation plan, tiger estimation, disease surveillance, mortality survey, patrolling, report on untoward happenings and such other management aspects as it may deem fit, including future plan for conservation.
The Authority would also facilitate and support tiger reserve management in the States through eco-development and people's participation as per approved management plans, and support similar initiatives in adjoining areas consistent with the Central and state laws.
The Tiger Conservation Authority would be required to prepare an Annual Report, which would be laid in the Parliament along with the Audit Report.
State level Steering Committees will be set up in the Tiger States under the Chairmanship of respective Chief Ministers. As recommended by the Tiger Task Force constituted by the Prime Minister, this has been done with a view for ensuring coordination, monitoring and protection of tigers in the States.
A provision has been made for the State Governments to prepare a Tiger Conservation Plan, which would include staff development, their deployment to ensure protection of tiger reserves and its development, while ensuring compatible forestry operations in adjoining areas. Further, safeguards have been provided for ensuring the agricultural, livelihood, developmental and other interests of the people living inside a forest or in and around a tiger reserve. The core as well as buffer areas have been explicitly explained to avoid ambiguity.
Provision will be made for the States to establish a Tiger Conservation Foundation, based on the good practices emanating from some tiger reserves. The proposed Foundation is a Trust, which would be constituted as per the appropriate statutory provisions in vogue in the State. It will have administrative autonomy as delegated by the State Government for fund generation to foster eco-tourism, eco-development and related activities involving the local people.