Guwahati, Friday, September 11, 2015
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Poor governance leading to rhino poaching
AJIT PATOWARY

 
 GUWAHATI, Sept 10 - Like other crimes, rampant rhino poaching in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) is also a product of poor governance and weak institutional structures, observed the Rhino Task Force constituted by the Union Environment and Forest Ministry to study the problem of rhino poaching in the KNP. The Task Force has submitted its report, which the Union Environment and Forest Ministry has accepted.

The solution lies in disentangling strands of the problems and reversing the signals in social environment, as well as in Government setups that are contributing to these problems, the Task Force said in its report.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority constituted this five-member Rhino Task Force in October, 2014, following the visit of the Union Environment and Forest Minister to the Park in September that year. Ravikiran S Govekar, AIG, NTCA, was appointed its Member Secretary.

The report was made available to The Assam Tribune by RTI activist Rohit Choudhury.

The Task Force stated that the manifestation of poor governance is seen in encroachments on revenue lands around the Park, mushrooming of dhabas and hotels on the southern boundary of the Park (along NH-37), among others. Moreover, recruiting staff in the name of Kaziranga and later transferring them outside the Park and release of funds under CSS (Project Tiger) towards the end of a financial year by the State Government also expose poor governance. And, at times, funds released under the CSS are simply partial, it added.

There is also the problem of lack of coordination among various law-enforcing agencies. Significantly, some of the dhabas and hotels are encroaching upon Government land, said the Task Force.

It further stated that intelligence also needs to be developed for unravelling rhino poaching and horn trafficking, both within and outside the country, up to its final destinations abroad. For unravelling trafficking within India, there is a need for forging strong coordination for gathering and sharing intelligence among State police, police of neighbouring States, Customs, Assam Rifles, Sashastra Seema Bal, CBI, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Border Security Force and State Forest Departments, the report added.

For gathering intelligence on hubs of trade outside India, there is need for taking help of CITES agencies, Interpol, etc. In addition, there is also a need for creating a DNA database of rhinos in India and gathering intelligence about traffickers on the international boundary of India with Southeast Asian countries. Armed with clinching evidence about the source, at least international pressure can be brought to bear on those countries to crack down on wildlife crimes there.

Moreover, there is a need for improving the effectiveness of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of the Government of India for dealing with wildlife crimes in the region, the Task Force added.

As the poachers are taking to latest technologies very fast and their network getting bigger, there is need for a surveillance net all over the area of the Park and beyond into the river islands. Further, the KNP authorities should use “electronic eyes”, UAVs and night vision telescopes in tandem with simple devices for ensuring effectiveness of daily patrol.

For reducing mortality of animals during floods, the management of Kaziranga needs to build more highlands inside the Park and reassess all anti-poaching camps with speed boats, rescue vehicles and trained manpower, the Task Force added.

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