Noted environmentalist and wildlife activist Bibhudhendra Pratap Das has refuted the claim of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest that the number of the country’s tiger population has increased by 741 in 2018 compared to 2014.
“The National Tiger Conservation Authority works under the Union Government. Agencies involved in survey works are funded by the Government.
They conduct a survey once in four years. The last survey says the number of tigers rose to 2,976 in 2018 against 2026 in 2014. It means the tiger population rose by 741 in four years. The increase is not believable as 657 tigers had died during the period,” said Das.
Das, a former Pallahara MLA, said that there were about 40,000 tigers in the country, including about 5,000 in Odisha before Independence.
He said the number of tigers in Odisha had dwindled to 45 in 2006 and it came down to 28 in 2016 as per data furnished by Ministers in the State Assembly on March 17, 2015.
Das expressed unhappiness that various suggestions made to the Government by as many as 40 MLAs across party lines during the last 25 years for protection of tigers have not been implemented. The suggestions included deployment of mobile squads involving Ex Servicemen, awarding poacher informers with money between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1,00,000 and establishment of a special court for disposal of forest and wildlife-related cases, he said.
Das said that the Union Forest and Environment Minister has told the Parliament that 657 tigers died between 2012 and 2018. “Thus, 80 tigers died every year in the country.
If this trend continues, the tiger population will vanish from the country’s jungle in coming 40 years,” he said quoting a Russian wildlife expert’s view.
Das too refuted the Union Government’s claim that the forest cover of the country has increased. “The Forest Survey of India has reported that the forest cover has increased. But it is not true. As all areas of sugarcane and fruits cultivation across the country and ganja cultivations on thousands of acres of land in Odisha have come under the lens of the organisation’s smart life photo,” he said.
Justifying his point further Das said about Sal and other valuable tress have died on 95 per cent of hills and 90 per cent of fountains have dried due to dwindling of forest cover over the years.
Das said the Government has felled over one crore trees for establishment industries that came upon 69.45 km between 2001 and 2012.
He suggested that the Government take early steps for creation of more forest cover to protect wild animals like tigers and elephants and birds and water sources.
He said if necessary steps are not taken as per suggestions made above, the population of tigers will be vanished and famine-like situation will hit the State in seven years.