When tiger population in Odisha is not increasing impressively, the delay of almost 22 years in according status of a tiger reserve to the Sunabeda-Khariar sanctuary both confounding as well as perplexing, said the Wild Orissa in a memorandum to CM Naveen Patnaik.
Notably, the forum has been continuing a sustained campaign since 1990 for inclusion of the high potential forests of Sunabeda and Khariar under the Project Tiger Scheme.
The field findings from survey conducted by the Wild Orissa since 1997 brought up excellent prospects for a potential tiger reserve encompassing forests of Sunabeda Wildlife Division and Khariar Forest Division in Nuapada district. Reports of migration of wildlife between Sunabeda plateau and Udanti forests in Chhattisgarh were obtained. The then Chief Wildlife Warden had during 2002, basing on the findings and sustained demand, requested the Project Tiger Directorate to notify the Sunabeda Tiger Reserve.
During 2003 at the National Symposium on Conservation of Wild Tigers, held at Bhubaneswar, inaugurated by the then Governor of Odisha, a very strong recommendation for the Sunabeda-Khariar Tiger Reserve was made.
Further a detailed proposal was sent by the State Government during 2004, where field findings by Wild Orissa, especially those of justifications for including Sinapalli-Patdhara forests of Khariar Forest Division and factoring the forest corridor for migration of Wild Buffalo Bubalus arnee from Udanti to Sunabeda were incorporated. The proposed TR was for 956.17 km2 (longitude - 82°20'0" to 82°34'48" east and latitude 20°06'0" to 20°44'0" north), in Nuapada district bordering the State of Chhattisgarh to the west of Odisha, and included the Sunabeda Sanctuary (591.75 km2) and the Patdhara forest block to its south (364.42 km2).
Fortunately, in the 3rd meeting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority [a new body from the erstwhile Project Tiger Directorate], held in May 2008, in-principle approval was given for the Sunabeda- Khariar Tiger Reserve, Shahyadri Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh and Ratapani Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, basing on the proposals sent by the concerned State Governments earlier and the concerned State Governments were asked to submit final proposal delineating the 'core' and 'buffer'.
"Unfortunately, it was only during 2016, after a lapse of full eight years, that the State Government of Odisha finally proposed an area of 1083.098 sqkm for the Sunabeda-Khariar Tiger Reserve consisting of 600 sqkm of Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary and 483.098 sqkm of forests under the Khariar Forest Division,” the memorandum said.