Studies nail forest dept’s lie on mining proposals in Tadoba-Kawal corridor

Vijay Pinjarkar, Times News Network, 22 July 2017

The state forest department’s move to recommend diversion of 229 and 293.12 hectares of rich forest for limestone mining near Naokari-Kusumbi and Shedwai villages respectively in Chandrapur district in the Tadoba-Kawal tiger reserves corridor has stirred up a debate.

TOI, on July 20, reported how clearance to these mines will further degrade the corridor. Both the proposal are before the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC).

However, APCCF & state’s nodal officer G Sai Prakash, in a statement on Thursday, said forest department recommended the proposals and they are not coming in the Tadoba-Kawal corridor in accordance with the maps of Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

“Existence of wildlife is common in forest areas of Maharashtra and both the mines are 60-70km away from Tadoba,” the APCCF said.

However, a genetic study on tiger population connectivity by wildlife biologist Aditya Joshi and four others demonstrates that tigers can disperse over 650km.

On corridor study, WII tiger scientist Bilal Habib says, in 2013, a corridor map for entire country was prepared but it was specifically said that original corridor would be more wide and bigger and should be validated on the ground before considering it. “In such cases, generally proposals come to WII. I don’t recall such proposals coming to WII,” he added. WII has publishes on corridors of Eastern Vidarbha Landscape (EVL) of which Tadoba-Kawal is not the part.

Debi Goenka, executive director, Conservation Action Trust (CAT), who opposed the diversion of forest areas to mines, says WII is not the last word and if forest department says it is not in corridor, it doesn’t mean it has licence to divert vast tracks of forests. The mine would lead to destruction of 44,360 trees.

He cited a report jointly released by the forest department and NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) about 3 tiger dispersals to Kawal and Kagaznagar in Telangana from Tipeshwar & Pandharkawada in Yavatmal and Kanhalgaon in Central Chanda in 2015-16.

A research paper — ‘Connectivity of tiger populations in the human-Influenced forest mosaic of Central India’ — by experts Aditya Joshi, Srinivas Vaidyanathan, Samrat Mondol, Advait Edgaonkar & Uma Ramakrishnan mapping the Melghat, Pench, Nagzira, Tadoba (Maharashtra), Kanha (MP) & Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam (AP), shows that Naokari-Kusumbi and Shedwai mines fall in the corridor connecting the Greater Tadoba Landscape (GTL) with forests in Telangana.

“Long-term monitoring of large carnivores outside protected areas has revealed several new tiger bearing areas which support resident breeding tiger populations in the territorial forests of Maharashtra,” says Goenka.

The nodal officer apparently says, quoting WII, that this region does not form part of any corridor. But Goenka says the WII study on EVL lacks in defining this corridor since the connecting tiger populations in the state of Telangana and Tipeshwar, Painganga, and Pandharkawada forests were not included as part of WII study.

“The statement by nodal officer only highlights ignorance. It is sad that officers who are being paid to protect forests are mindlessly processing proposals for forest diversions,” Goenka alleged.

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