Preserving India’s Magnificent Tigers: A Critical Directive from the Goa High Court
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The Goa High Court, in a landmark 94-page order, has directed the Goa government to notify the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and other areas as a tiger reserve under the Wildlife Protection Act. The court’s decision came after considering recommendations from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Goa Foundation, an environment monitoring group.
Court’s Directive for Tiger Conservation Plan
The Division Bench of Justices M S Sonak and Bharat Deshpande instructed the state government to take immediate action in preparing a comprehensive tiger conservation plan and forwarding it to the NTCA within three months of notifying the reserve. This plan is vital in ensuring the protection and well-being of the tiger population in the designated areas.
Background and Long-standing Demand
The call for declaring Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve dates back to 2011 when the then Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, urged the Goa Chief Minister to take action. He emphasized that tigers in Goa are not just transient animals but have a resident population as well. The recent death of a tigress and three cubs due to poisoning in the sanctuary further renewed the demand for a tiger reserve by environmentalists and conservationists.
NTCA’s Recommendations and State’s Response
The NTCA has repeatedly suggested creating a tiger reserve from the uninhabited core zones of Goa’s protected areas. However, the state’s Wildlife Board stalled the proposal twice, leading to tragic tiger deaths. The Advocate General of Goa argued that further studies and settlement of forest dwellers’ rights were necessary before making such a declaration. Nonetheless, the court held that the provisions of Section 38-V (1) of the Wildlife Protection Act are mandatory, and the state must abide by the NTCA’s recommendations.
Court’s Concerns and Protection Imperative
The High Court expressed concerns that delaying or refusing to notify a tiger reserve despite expert recommendations would jeopardize tiger protection efforts. It stressed that the area must be notified as a tiger reserve to provide a higher level of protection for the endangered species and the tiger corridor.
Resolving Forest Dwellers’ Rights
The court urged the state to determine and settle the rights and claims of Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers swiftly and in accordance with the law. It also debunked the misconception that declaring the area as a tiger reserve would lead to large-scale displacements, emphasizing that such concerns needed correction.
In addition to the three-month notification timeline, the court directed the state to set up anti-poaching camps at strategic locations in wildlife sanctuaries and national parks within six months. The court emphasized the importance of timely implementation to safeguard the tiger population effectively.
The Way Forward
While the State Government intends to explore all options and respect the decision of the State Wildlife Board, the court’s directive remains a crucial step towards protecting the tiger population in Goa’s wildlife sanctuaries. Goa must now take necessary actions to secure the future of these majestic creatures and maintain a healthy ecological balance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What did the Goa High Court order regarding the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary?
The Goa High Court directed the Goa government to notify the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and other areas as a tiger reserve under the Wildlife Protection Act within three months.
- Why is the notification of the tiger reserve important?
The notification is crucial to provide a higher level of protection for the tiger population and the tiger corridor in Goa’s protected areas.
- Who filed the PIL for declaring the Mhadei sanctuary as a tiger reserve?
The PIL was filed by the Goa Foundation, an environment monitoring group.
- What is the timeline for implementing the court’s directives?
The state must notify the tiger reserve within three months and set up anti-poaching camps within six months.
- What are the concerns raised by the court regarding the delay in notification?
The court expressed concerns that delaying or refusing to notify a tiger reserve despite expert recommendations could jeopardize tiger protection efforts.
- Is there a misconception regarding large-scale displacements upon notification?
Yes, the court clarified that declaring the area as a tiger reserve would not lead to large-scale displacements, and such concerns need correction.
- What further steps must the state take for tiger conservation?
The state must prepare a comprehensive tiger conservation plan and forward it to the NTCA within three months of notification to ensure effective protection of tigers and their habitat. Additionally, the rights of forest dwellers must be settled promptly.