By Riyan Ramanath
BHUBANESWAR: Two villages are going to be shifted from the core area of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), the biggest reserve in the state, to keep it free from poachers and human disturbances.
Sixty-one tribal families were relocated in 2012 followed by 32 families in December 2013. An expert team headed by former additional director general of wildlife Jagdish Kishwan is scheduled to visit STR on Tuesday to examine the relocation plan, sources said.
"We have identified Kabad Ghai and Jamuna villages, located within the core area, for relocation. There are about 16 families who will be displaced. The team is likely to visit the villages to make an assessment," said regional chief conservator of forest (RCCF) Anup Nayak.
He said that the team would interact with the villagers. "According to the Wildlife (Protection) Act and guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the core area of the reserve should be kept free from human habitation," he added.
The tiger reserve is spread over 2,750 sq km with 1,195 sq km of core area and 1,550 sq km of buffer. Since the inception of STR, it has been a major concern of the wildlife officials to ensure a safe habitation area for the big cats. "We are yet to identify the place where the displaced villagers would be relocated. After the team's return, we will be able to select a place outside the core area," said Nayak.
Official sources said according to the NTCA guidelines, the displaced families would be entitled to get Rs 10 lakh each. "The families will be relocated only after obtaining their consent. Apart from the monetary compensation, each family will be allotted 10 decimal homestead lands and a house under 'Mo Kudia' scheme at the site where they will be relocated," said a senior STR official.
The STR had been working on vacating the core area for the last two years. "Freeing the core area from human habitation will also help us check poaching as there are incidents of tribal families indulging in poaching of prey animals in the core area," said the official.
While as per National Tiger Conservation Authority (2010 Census), there are about 23 tigers in the sanctuary, the state government in 2004 claimed that the reserve had observed movement of 64 tigers. The present population of tigers in the sanctuary is not known. About 415 anti-poaching personnel have been deployed with VHF radio sets for effective surveillance.