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FPJ EXCLUSIVE: Days after Aarey attacks, report proposes mitigation plan

11:59 PM Oct 12, 2021 | Sanjay Jog

Mumbai: Amid rising cases of human-wildlife conflict, the 11-member committee appointed by the state government in August 2020 has suggested that it should be included in the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The report further recommends raising the necessary funds for human-wildlife conflict mitigation as well as catalysing partnership between the forest department and other related agencies in managing such situations. This is only the second meeting of the committee since it was founded more than a year ago.

The committee, which is headed by NR Praveen, the chief conservator of forest (Chandrapur), has also made a strong case for declaration of Chandrapur district as tiger district, creation of separate corpus for compensation for victims of animal attacks, capacity building of the forest department staff to effectively manage human-wildlife interactions, especially those concerning such conflicts, and management interventions such as identification and immediate removal of a tiger, which has attacked humans. The report, which is in Free Press Journal’s possession, was discussed at the meeting of the Wildlife Board headed by the CM on Tuesday.

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The committee has called for tiger monitoring – both physical and e-monitoring – identification of a problem individual and protocol for removal of such an individual to effectively deal with conflicts. Regular monitoring of tigers with special focus on breeding tigresses must be carried out by all wildlife, territorial and the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra divisions, in collaboration with local NGOs for a good understanding of the movement pattern of individual tigers.

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A total number of 9,442 human-wildlife conflict incidents were reported from 2005 to March 2020 from the Vidarbha Landscape. Of these, 58 per cent were of human-tiger conflicts, which peaked between 2015 and 2018. The total number of attacks on humans caused by tigers also peaked in the years between 2017 and 2019, which happens to be 4.2% of the total human-tiger conflict incidents, whereas the number of livestock depredation incidents peaked between the years 2015 and 2018, which is 95.7 per cent of the total human-tiger conflict cases.

Further, the committee has recommended generating awareness among local people and simultaneously monitoring animals by the forest department. “But apart from these activities, there is always a need to provide timely compensation/relief against the damages caused by wildlife,” said the committee.

The committee has pitched for the formation of Primary Response Teams (PRTs) proactively in all sensitive villages to act as a village-level support system at the time of conflict and to avoid interaction from metamorphosing into conflict by acting as a bridge between the forest department and the local communities. Only interested villagers should be enrolled in PRTs and a nominal financial incentive (honorarium) can be given to them, along with adequate group life insurance. Government should ensure continuous funding for these PRTs under the district development fund or the state government or any other resources available at the district level.

State Wildlife Action plan released

Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to prepare a State Wildlife Action Plan. It was approved on Tuesday by the Maharashtra State Wildlife Board, chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. The plan proposes comprehensive measures for protection and conservation of wildlife. The action plan has been prepared for a 10-year period from 2021 to 2030.

The state plan is divided into 12 chapters, including conservation of rare species, control of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife, measures and rescue work on human-wildlife conflicts, wildlife health management, conservation of territorial water ecosystems, conservation of coastal and marine ecosystems, and wildlife tourism. These include conservation awareness, strengthening public participation, research and monitoring, ensuring sustainable funding for the wildlife sector, strengthening and expanding the protected area network in the state.

According to the Chief Minister’s Office, the plan will be implemented in a timely manner by setting up a committee of government departments concerned and NGOs. State environment minister Aaditya Thackeray suggested that a monitoring committee be set up to oversee its implementation.

The plan lays special focus on habitat conservation in coastal, marine and inland aquatic ecosystems and also recovery of threatened species. It encourages awareness regarding wildlife conservation, eco development, education, training, capacity building and outreach programmes, highlighting its importance and people’s participation.

Further, the plan suggests private sector participation in wildlife conservation. It has integrated wildlife concerns in other sectors of the state government, which are involved in infrastructure development, rural development, agriculture, tourism, tribal development.

Also Read: Mumbai | In depth: More attacks put human-leopard conflict back in focus; forest officials set up animal traps

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