Despite all its rhetoric about wildlife conservation, the Odisha Government has been found wanting in management of its two tiger reserves. The Central assistance has been lying unused while single line command for effective management is absent, in contravention of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines.
As per the guidelines of Project Tiger, a Field Director should be in charge of each Tiger Reserve exclusively. For Satkosia Tiger Reserve, there was no full time Field Director and it was under supervision of Satkosia Wildlife Division and Mahanadi Wildlife Division. Satkosia is under administrative control of Conservator of Forests, Angul Circle, while Mahanadi is under Conservator of Forest Bhubaneswar Circle.
In case of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), the entire buffer zone, constituting 60 per cent of Similipal as well as the transition zone of Similipal Biosphere Reserve, is under three Territorial Divisions indicating there is no unified command and control system. The core area of Similipal, however, is under the Wildlife Wing.
In fact, the FD and the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests (RCCF), Baripada, used to be two different officers manning the two positions till last year when the Government managed to merge the two posts for better management of the tiger reserve. The CAG, which has nailed the discrepancies, revealed that the tiger reserves did not function under one single line of command and control and the dual administration in supervision was in violation of the Project Tiger guidelines and affected the project implementation and protection in Tiger Reserves.
‘’The tiger population declined drastically in Odisha due to inadequate protection measures and deficiency in project management not providing inviolate space, low pace of expenditure and delay in relocation of villages from core area,’’ the report said. During the five-year period of 2006-11, `103.43 cr was proposed to the Centre by the State in the annual plan of operation (APOs). The STR had posed funds for five years, while Satkosia, which was notified in 2007, sought funds for a three-year period from 2008 to 2011. The Centre approved `31.62 cr (having a State share `5.85 cr) against which `27.23 cr was released (State share of ` 4.79 cr) for protection measures, habitat improvement, strengthening of infrastructure, relocation of villages and redressing man-animal conflict. However, just about `23.37 cr was utilised by the two tiger reserve managements while `3.86 cr remained unutilised.
That was not all. Despite the NTCA seeking formulation of a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) at Similipal with 100 per cent Central assistance under Project Tiger in 2009, the State has been sitting on it. In May last year, the State Government passed a resolution for establishment of the STPF after three years of the NTCA resolution which deprived the Tiger Reserve of Central assistance for protection measures.‘’This indicated lack of sincerity and seriousness in taking timely action for a vital protection measure with 100 per cent Central assistance,’’ the CAG report said, adding that poaching of elephants, illegal tree felling and mass animal hunting like “Akhand Shikar” in STR could not be controlled because of such attitude of the Government.