BHUBANESWAR: At a time when Odisha is facing backlash over poor execution of big cat conservation programmes, the State Government is sitting over notifying the Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary in Nuapada as a tiger reserve (TR).
The proposed tiger reserve, which was granted in-principle approval a decade back, is facing inordinate delay for reasons best known to the Forest and Environment department.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has been requesting the State Government to expedite steps to issue final notification for Sunabeda Tiger Reserve at the earliest.
The proposal is pending before the department irrespective of the fact that all formalities required to notify Sunabeda as a tiger reserve were completed by the State wildlife wing earlier this year.
On July 29 this year, the then PCCF (Wildlife) Ajay Mohapatra had said the Sunabeda tiger reserve would be notified by August. Though two months have passed in between, the file hasn’t moved an inch.
A senior forest official admitted that the proposal is still under consideration of the department and it would be difficult to say as to when the tiger reserve will be notified.
At present, Similipal and Satkosia are the only two notified TRs in the State. The Centre had accorded in-principle approval to Sunabeda as a TR on August 21, 2008.
The proposed reserve is said to be a good tiger habitat given its contiguity to Udanti-Sitanadi TR of Chhattisgarh. Besides, it connects with Central India Tiger Landscape. As per the proposal submitted by Wildlife Wing, the total notified area of the TR is 1,083.098 sq km.
It comprises Sunabeda Wildlife Division of 600 sq km and Khariar Forest Division of 483.098 sq km. Its core area is pegged at 510.461 sq km while the buffer zone is measured at 572.63 sq km.
Wildlife experts have raised concern over the delay as they feel that it may hamper State’s tiger conservation activities further.
In last 12-year period, the tiger population in Odisha has come down from 45 to 28. As per the tiger census report released earlier this year, big cat population in the State which was around 45 in 2006 declined to 32 in 2010 and 28 in 2014. The figure continued to be same in 2018.
45 tigers in Odisha in 2006
32 population in 2010
28 tigers in 2014
1,083 sq km notified area
600 sq km of Sunabeda Wildlife Division
483 sq km of Khariar Forest Division
510 sq km core area
572 sq km buffer zone