BHUBANESWAR: With the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) refusing to approve Odisha Government’s proposal for a reduction in the notified area of Satkosia Tiger Reserve (STR), the latter has offered another 400 sq km of forest area in lieu of the loss.
The additional forest areas are located in the three divisions of Athagarh, Athamallik and Angul, sources said.
In February last year, the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) had given its nod to carve out 191 sq km from Satkosia, a low-density tiger reserve. Of this, as much as 159 sq km were to be denotified from Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary, which forms a large part of the tiger reserve.
The SBWL, chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, had approved the reduction of sanctuary area from 795.52 sq km to 636.495 sq km.
However, the NBWL, the apex body on the matters of wildlife, struck down the approval forcing the state government to rethink its strategy. In lieu of the reduction from the STR, it has now offered 400 sq km area of adjoining forests in the three divisions.
While the exact pockets of forests proposed to be added to the STR have already been identified, a two-member standing committee of the NBWL arrived in the state on Wednesday to make a physical verification and assess the feasibility.
The team comprises eminent elephant expert Dr Raman Sukumaran and Dr Debabrata Swain, an Odisha cadre IFS officer now posted in the Ministry of Environment and Forest. They would visit Satkosia on Thursday.
Sources said the state government has nominated Anup Nayak, RCCF of Angul Circle and Field Director of STR, as its representative to the committee. The state government, which has received flak for trying to reduce Satkosia’s area, has also submitted that the denotified zones would remain part of the buffer zone of the STR where eco-development plans could be implemented.
Satkosia has been under severe anthropogenic pressure because of its proximity to human habitations and consequent interference. While most of the area proposed for denotification has villages, the fringe sectors of the STR are dotted with human settlements.