There are talks that Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary is going to be converted into a Tiger Reserve by the Tiger Conservation Authority of India as well as by the Wild Life Authority of India. Even before it was declared as a wildlife sanctuary on February 8, 1985, it was a tiger habitat. Its natural landscape is very much suitable for the growth and propagation of various flora and fauna.
The sanctuary is situated within undivided district of Samabalpur. The total area of the sanctuary is 346.90 sqkm. The Hirakud Dam is situated in the close proximity of the sanctuary. It is a rich habitat of avifauna of residential and non-residential birds.
The migratory birds from different parts of the globe come to the artificial reservoir to pass the severity of winter. Its climate is very suitable for Sal, Baija, Asan, Anla, Dhaura, Bandhan and Gambhari with other associates species. For presence of such type of evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of tropical origin, the land has to be very suitable. Needless to say, the sanctuary is an ideal home for all types of flora and fauna. Both carnivorous and herbivorous animals are seen. Its ground floras are also very rich. Among the carnivores, tigers, leopards, hyenas, wolves etc are seen. Similarly, among the herbivores, Gour, Sambar, spotted deer, Chowsingha, and bears etc are seen. Different kinds of reptiles such as monitor lizard, chameleon etc are noticed in the biosphere. The pride of the sanctuary is the presence of Royal Bengal Tigers (RBT) and elephants.
There are four forest villages as such Jhagadabehera, Lambipalli, Debigrah and Mundakali inside the sanctuary. The core area of the sanctuary is 79.80 sqkm. The Hirakud Dam reservoir is 35 km from Sambalpur headquarters town and 50 km from Burla town. The communication facilities to the eco-tourism spot are now well -developed.
Now, the Government of India wants to rope in the tribal youngsters and their outfits throughout the country for promoting the eco –tourism. As the forest blocks of Odisha are enriched with tribal populations, who are admittedly neglected by our society, the plan of the Central Government will surely come as a shot in their arm. So far minimum human rights are permitted to them. Most of forest villages in our country are not declared as revenue villages. Although the tribals are primary citizens of India, they have not received property rights so far.
The land, which they have been cultivating for years, is not theirs, at least legally. They are considered as illegal occupants or encroachers and also their villages are not declared as revenue villages.
Although the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and Rules have been proclaimed by the Government India long since, they are not worked out by the State Governments. Especially, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is very much interested to promoted eco-tourism by taking into the fold the tribal youths as they have adequate knowledge on nature and on the physiognomy of the landscapes.
On September 27, the world will observe the World Tourism Day. Now, tourism has received an industry status and from the sector, the States are receiving huge revenues. The development of tourism is tantamount to protecting the culture and heritage of a country. Now, the airport of Jharsuguda is going to be full-fledged and this would boost the tourism sector of the region.
The potentiality of eco tourism of Odisha as well of western Odisha can be well exploited for the economic developments of the local people and of the State as there is a wide scope. The western Odisha has a big chunk of tribal population, with unique endemic art and culture. The tribal art and culture should be utilised for economic benefits of the traditional races.
Recently as information goes, the Tiger Conservation Authorities of India and the State Forest Wild Life Conservation Department have decided to introduce a few outside tigers in the Debrigarh sanctuary on line of the Satkosia Tiger Conservation Project. If it is a fact, it sounds well but in every case the potentiality of the tiger habitat is to be considered.
In a tiger project, there must be sufficient herbs for the herbivores and thereby, there should be sufficient herbivores for tigers. No habitat can be sustainable, if there is shortage of herbs or herbivores in a tiger project or even in an elephant project. At present, there are a few tigers in Debrigarh.
The authorities should consider the area and climate suitability of a sanctuary before starting a tiger project. At least, it should be examined how many tigers can be entertained in the sanctuary.
The man-animal conflict is a regular phenomenon in a tiger project. Given this, the authorities should ensure that the peripheral villagers are safe.
The habitat management of any eco-system is most important. The depletion of tiger or leopard or elephant population is going on at a very fast rate due to poaching. In respect of the Debrigah sanctuary, Smart City Rourkela and Sambalpur town are very close to it.
(The writer is a former forest officer and environmentalist. He lives at Plot – 479, Sailashree Vihar, Bhubaneswar. Mob: 9937460649, Email: email@example.com)