GUWAHATI, Nov 17 - With a view to reduce man-animal conflicts, the Centre has drawn up a comprehensive plan to undertake a series of measures, including a national programme for augmentation of water and fodder in forest areas.
Speaking to reporters here on Tuesday, the Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar said that man-animal conflict in the country has assumed serious proportions and around 500 persons lost their lives in 2014 in such incidents.
He said that the Government has decided to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to lessen human-wildlife conflict.
“Lack of sufficient fodder and water are the primary reasons for growing instances of man-animal conflicts. So we have decided to start a programme for augmentation of water and fodder in forest areas. A special fund and a separate Budget head will be introduced for this in the next Budget,” Javadekar said here, after conclusion of his three-day visit to Assam, Nagaland and Meghalaya.
A national conference on man-animal conflict will be held in January where experts, wildlife activists, NGOs and State Governments will participate.
“We will discuss the issue elaborately there and come up with a full-proof plan,” he said. The Minister said that the people who want to relocate from forest areas will be encouraged as part of the plan to reduce such conflicts.
“We are also giving importance to digging of trenches and erecting of fences and asked the State Governments to identify areas where such work can be undertaken. Karnataka has done a good work in this regard,” Javadekar said, adding that efforts would also be undertaken to impart training to the locals to identify such conflict situations and deal with them scientifically.
Asked about the proposed protection force for rhinos, in line with the Special Tiger Protection Force, Javadekar said that the Central Government has
already sanctioned money for the first company, consisting 100 personnel, but added that the Assam Government has yet to complete the process of recruitment of the personnel.
“Recruitment has to be done by the State Government. Once the process is completed by the State, we will immediately release the funds. I have written to the Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, twice in this regard,” he said.
Admitting that poaching is a major concern, Javadekar said that the Centre is ready to sanction sophisticated arms to deal with the problem if any State asks.
He said that 24 rhinos were killed by poachers in the State last year, while forest personnel also managed to gun down 24 poachers.
Regarding manpower shortage faced by the Forest Department, he said that many State Governments are not filling up vacancies.
“The 14th Finance Commission has increased the weightage of forest sector by 7.5 per cent in its allocation and that should be reflected in the State Budgets. We will ask the State Governments to increase their expenditures,” Javadekar said.
Asked about the agitation by the KMSS against eviction in Kaziranga and about the alleged encroachments by suspected Bangladeshi nationals, Javadekar said that the anti-encroachment drives have been undertaken as per the High Court orders. The Minister said that he has asked for details from the Assam Government in the matter.
“The court should be presented with real facts. I have asked for details from the State Government. If necessary, we will provide inputs to the court,” he said, adding that India has only one per cent of the global forest cover and all efforts must be made to preserve them.
Javadekar said that the Narendra Modi Government is committed to decentralisation and more powers have been allotted to the States to deal with forest issues.
He said that more funding would be provided to forest training institutes and their infrastructure would be upgraded.
The Minister added that the Rain Forest Research Institute in Jorhat has shown good results in a number of fields, including developing a fungus which helps in faster growth of plants and also in developing glue used in agarbattis, which would now be patented.
“We will encourage academic research and with that purpose an academic audit of the research institutes is being carried out,” Javadekar said.
He said that the three Amur Falcons, tagged with satellite tracking chips, in 2013, have once again returned to Nagaland and next year another three or four Amur Falcons would be tagged.
“Another three or four roosting sites have emerged and birds are flocking in large numbers. We want to develop the area as an eco-tourism hub,” Javadekar said.