The Bombay high court (HC) at Goa has directed the Goa government, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and other authorities to respond by August 24 after Goa Foundation, an environmental non-governmental organisation (NGO), filed a petition that pleaded for setting up of a tiger reserve in the tiny coastal state.
The NGO has sought that the state government act on the NTCA’s directive to set up a tiger reserve in the state that was earlier put forth in 2011 and 2016, but the trail went cold, as “no further steps were taken”.
In 2011, Jairam Ramesh, the then minister of state (independent charge) of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) — and in his capacity as the NTCA chairperson — had written to the then Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat to declare the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary as a tiger reserve.
While in 2016, the inspector-general of forests, had written to the then Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), Goa, to set up a tiger reserve in Goa.
Several successive committees have recommended the setting up of a tiger reserve in Goa.
An NTCA panel was also set up to probe the death of four tigers due to poisoning in the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary.
The panel had suggested that the declaration of the tiger reserve would provide much-needed technical and financial help in monitoring the sanctuary.
“In view of the unfortunate death of tigers, the state government may take immediate steps for enhancing the legal status of Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary to that of a tiger reserve. Declaring the sanctuary as a tiger reserve will provide much-needed access to technical, financial and monitoring support from the NTCA for safeguarding the conservation values of the sanctuary,” the NTCA panel had said in its report earlier this year.
“It will also empower the local communities residing inside the sanctuary by giving access to development opportunities, as they will be able to utilise the voluntary resettlement scheme for joining the mainstream society. Further, after conducting a scientific assessment of remaining protected areas of the state by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the state government may consider bringing the potential tiger habitat of Goa within the tiger reserve network of Western Ghats,” the panel had added.
Earlier, the NTCA, in its report titled, Status of tigers, co predators and prey in India, 2010, had described the Goa stretch of the Western Ghats as an important tiger corridor between the Anshi-Dandeli Tiger Reserve and the Sahyadris.
The report had stated that Goa could potentially become the home to a small breeding population of tigers that would be sustained by immigrants from Anshi-Dandeli and Sahyadris.
Goa Foundation has pointed out that in a document titled, Connecting Tiger Populations for Long-term Conservation the National Tiger Conservation Authority, in collaboration with WII, 32 major tiger corridors inside and outside protected areas (PAs) across the country have been mapped in a bid to formulate a long-term conservation strategy for the big cats.
Among the tiger corridors in the Western Ghats landscape, eight have been identified, including the Sahyadri-Radhanagari-Goa corridor, which is adjacent to the Dandeli Anshi-Sharavathi Valley corridor in neighbouring Karnataka.
HC will hear the case next on August 24.