The Government of India has taken a pioneering initiative for conserving its national animal, the tiger, by launching the ‘Project Tiger’ in 1973.
From 9 tiger reserves since its formative years, the Project Tiger coverage has increased to 47 at present, spread out in 18 of our tiger range states. This amounts to around 2.08% of the geographical area of our country.
The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy. The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area.
The Project Tiger aims to foster an exclusive tiger agenda in the core areas of tiger reserves, with an inclusive people oriented agenda in the buffer.
‘Project Tiger’ is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Environment, Forests and Climate Change, providing funding support to tiger range States, for in-situ conservation of tigers in designated tiger reserves, and has put the endangered tiger on an assured path of recovery by saving it from extinction, as revealed by the recent findings of the All India tiger estimation using the refined methodology.
This, interalia, includes protection, habitat amelioration, day to day monitoring, eco-development for local people in buffer areas, voluntary relocation of people from core/critical tiger habitats, and addressing human-wildlife conflicts, within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and guidelines of Project Tiger.
The implementation of Project Tiger over the years has highlighted the need for a statutory authority with legal backing to ensure tiger conservation. On the basis of the recommendations of National Board for Wild Life chaired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, a Task Force was set up to look into the problems of tiger conservation in the country.
The recommendations of the said Task Force, interalia include strengthening of Project Tiger by giving it statutory and administrative powers, apart from creating the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau. It has also recommended that an annual report should be submitted to the Central Government for laying in Parliament, so that commitment to Project Tiger is reviewed from time to time, in addition to addressing the concerns of local people.
Broadly the urgent recommendations of the said Task Force are as below:
• Reinvigorating the constitution of governance.
• Strengthening efforts towards protection of tiger, checking poaching, convicting wildlife criminals and breaking the international trade network in wildlife body parts and derivatives.
• Expanding the undisturbed areas for tiger by reducing human pressure.
• Repair the relationship with local people who share the tigers habitat by fielding strategies for coexistence.
• Regenerate the forest habitats in the fringes of the tigers protective enclaves by investing in forest, water and grassland economies of the people.
Considering the urgency of the situation, Project Tiger has been converted into a statutory authority (NTCA).
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
NTCA is mandated to carry out various activities and responsibilities for the conservation of Tigers and associated wildlife species and their habitat across India. National Tiger Conservation Authority ensures wildlife management, protection measures and site specific eco-development to reduce the dependency of local communities on tiger reserve resources.
Constitution of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA):
• The National Tiger Conservation Authority, a statutory body, is set up under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Environment and Forests and is created for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006.
• The Authority consists of eight experts or professionals having qualifications and experience in wildlife conservation and welfare of people including tribals, apart from three Members of Parliament of whom two will be elected by the House of the People and one by the Council of States.
• The Inspector General of Forests, in charge of Project Tiger, is the ex-officio Member Secretary.
Objective of the NTCA:
• Providing statutory authority to Project Tiger so that compliance of its directives is made legal.
• Fostering accountability of Center & States in management of Tiger Reserves, by providing a basis for MoU with States within our federal structure.
• To provide for Parliamentary oversight.
• Addressing livelihood interests of local people living in areas surrounding Tiger Reserves.
Power and Functions of the NTCA:
• To approve the tiger conservation plan prepared by the State Governments;
• To evaluate and assess various aspects of sustainable ecology and disallow any ecologically unsustainable land use such as, mining, industry and other projects within the tiger reserves;
• To provide for management focus and measures for addressing conflicts of men and wild animal and to emphasize on co-existence in forest areas outside the National Parks, sanctuaries or tiger reserve, in the working plan code;
• To provide information on protection measures including future conservation plan, estimation of population of tiger and its natural prey species, status of habitats, disease surveillance, mortality survey, patrolling, reports on untoward happenings and such other management aspects as it may deem fit including future plan conservation;
• To approve, co-ordinate research and monitoring on tiger, co-predators, prey habitat, related ecological and socio-economic parameters and their evaluation;
• To ensure that the tiger reserves and areas linking one protected area or tiger reserve with another protected area or tiger reserve are not diverted for ecologically unsustainable uses, except in public interest and with the approval of the National Board for Wild Life and on the advice of the Tiger Conservation Authority;
• To facilitate and support the tiger reserve management in the State for biodiversity conservation initiatives through eco-development and people’s participation as per approved management plans and to support similar initiatives in adjoining areas consistent with the Central and State laws;
• To ensure critical support including scientific, information technology and legal support for better implementation of the tiger conservation plan;
• To facilitate ongoing capacity building programme for skill development of officers and staff of tiger reserves.
Special thrust on tiger protection and antipoaching operations:
The illegal demand for body parts and derivatives of tiger outside the country continues to be a serious threat to wild tigers. Therefore, protection is accorded topmost priority in Project Tiger / NTCA. The States are engaged in an ongoing manner through the NTCA Headquarters as well as its Regional Offices, while issuing alerts, besides closely working with the CBI, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the Police Departments. The following actions are taken in this context:
• Alerting the States as and when required
• Transmitting backward / forward linkages of information relating to poachers
• Advising the States for combing forest floor to check snares / traps
• Performing supervisory field visits through the National Tiger Conservation Authority and its regional offices
• Providing assistance to States for antipoaching operations
• Using information technology for improved surveillance (e-Eye system) using thermal cameras launched in Corbett
• Launching tiger reserve level monitoring using camera trap to keep a photo ID database of individual tigers
• Preparing a national database of individual tiger photo captures to establish linkage with body parts seized or dead tigers
• Assisting States to refine protection oriented monitoring through monitoring system for tiger’s intensive protection and ecological status (M-STrIPES)
• Providing grant through NTCA for patrolling in tiger rich sensitive forest areas outside tiger reserves
• Assisting States to deploy local workforce in a big way for protection to complement the efforts of field staff [In all, approximately 24 lakh mandays are generated annually with 50% central assistance amounting to around Rs. 24 crores (excluding matching 50% share given by States) under Project Tiger. In case of Northern- eastern States the share is 90:10 i.e. 90% central assistance and 10% matching share given by states. Many local tribes constitute such local workforce (besides non-tribals), eg. Baigas, Gonds in Madhya Pradesh, Gonds in Maharashtra, Chenchus in Andhra Pradesh, Sholigas in Karnataka, Gujjars in Uttarakhand and Irulas in Tamil Nadu to name a few. The deployment of such local tribals has been fostered / encouraged in the last two years]
• Supporting States for raising, arming and deploying the Special Tiger Protection Force
Managing moving tigers under Project Tiger in human dominated landscapes
In several productive tiger landscapes, tigers move out from the core/critical tiger habitats/source areas. This is an innate behaviour owing to their social dynamics. Since the tiger landscapes have human settlements and varied land uses, there are frequent human-tiger/ wildlife interface issues. The NTCA / Project Tiger is actively engaging with the States to address such issues and a SOP has been put in place in this regard.
The important thrust areas for the Plan period are:
1. Stepped up protection/networking/surveillance
2. Voluntary relocation of people from core/critical tiger habitat to provide inviolate space for tiger
3. Strengthening of protection infrastructure and habitat management as per Tiger Conservation Plans of tiger reserves
4. Use of information technology in wildlife crime prevention
5. Addressing human-wildlife conflicts
6. Addressing the issue of resource dependency of local people through sustainable livelihood options
7. Capacity building of frontline personnel
8. Developing a national repository of camera trap tiger photographs with IDs
9. Active management for rescuing moving tigers from human dominated landscape
10. Conducting the next round of country level assessment of tiger, co-predators, prey besides habitat status monitoring
11. Conducting the next round of the independent management effectiveness evaluation
12. Strengthening the regional offices of the NTCA
13. Declaring and consolidating new tiger reserves
14. Fostering awareness for eliciting local public support
15. Fostering Research
Some recent news:
1. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has constituted teams for 2018 management effective evaluation (MEE) of 50 tiger reserves in the country. The last MEE was done in 2014.
The MEE is done once in four years by NTCA & Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to evaluate whether the chosen approaches in tiger reservemanagement are sound, adequate and appropriate.
2. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), India’s nodal body for protection and conservation of tigers, wrote to all tiger range states on 28 March, 2017 on the issue of ‘Conferring rights under the Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act 2006 in critical tiger habitats’. India’s nodal tiger authority has asked tiger range states not to confer forest rights to any tribal or forest dwelling communities in critical tiger habitats. Forest Rights Act 2006 ensures that forest dwellers, including scheduled tribes, get their rights over forest land and non-timber forest produce.