By Vijay Pinjarkar
NAGPUR: Four years ago when the buffer zone for Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) was notified, political activists raised a bogey that 79 villages inside the zone will have to move out. Now the same tigers are bringing money for individual and community development in these villages.
In the last three years, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve Conservation Foundation (TATRCF) has distributed over Rs1.5 crore to Eco-Development Committees (EDCs) in buffer villages for individual and community development. The money is from tourism receipts. In 2011-12, 52 EDCs were given Rs26.52 lakh from the TCF. In 2012-13, 12 EDCs were given Rs14.72 lakh. Besides, one EDC in core area was given Rs90,000 and Rs9.84 lakh for LPG distribution. "This year we plan to distribute approximately Rs 1 crore to EDCs," said Virendra Tiwari, chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director of TATR.
"This year, we are supporting the EDCs that did not get funds from CAMPA, 13th Finance Commission, and other sources. Villages that received no or less money have been released Rs26.60 lakh. It will be handed over by forest minister Patangrao Kadam to 17 buffer villages on Monday," Tiwari told TOI.
The villages include Alizanja, Malbamni, Nimdhela, Mohbodi, Katval, Khatera, Gonmohadi, Vihirgaon, Mamla, Sitarampeth, Madanapur, Vasera, Bembala, Katvan, Petgaon, Maroda, Kitali and Kolara. Of this, Kolara has been already given Rs1.95 lakh for solar lights. Recently, a man from this village was killed by a tiger.
Tiwari said apart from this, Rs 20 lakh was being provided for solar fencing in Ghosri, Khutwanda, Kolara and Wadala on Tadoba fringes. Apart from LPGs, Rs5 lakh is given for eco-friendly chulhas. "We have kept our options open on helping out villages in buffer. For example, plan has been finalized to start an incense stick (agarbatti) project in Kolara and rehabilitated Navegaon Ramdegi at the total cost of around Rs20 lakh," Tiwari said.
He added around Rs16 lakh had been set aside for toilets for 128 families in Bhagwanpur in Mul, where two Tadoba villages have been resettled. Meadow development at Navegaon will be done with Rs10 lakh and Rs25 lakh for creation of water bodies in the buffer zone. "We also felicitate outstanding SSC and HSC students in villages," said Tiwari. He informed that another project being implemented was to construct parapet walls for open wells in vulnerable villages.
"Tourism money being distributed among locals is a victory for tigers and and a rebuff to mining lobby that had tried every trick to stall buffer notification. Locals should definitely benefit because of regulations they face in buffer," said Kishor Rithe, member of state wildlife board.
Tadoba's tiger economy
* Tiger Conservation Foundation: As per NTCA new rules, every tiger reserve has TCF and gate money from tourism is deposited in it. Donations to save tigers are also accepted. Tadoba TCF was set up on November 25, 2008, but after rules were notified it was activated in 2010.
* Buffer Zone: Notifying buffer zones around tiger reserves is mandatory under the tiger conservation plan (TCP) after amendments in Wildlife Protection Act on September 4, 2006. Tadoba buffer zone was notified in 2010. It aims at protection of tigers and providing site specific habitat inputs for a viable population of tigers, co-predators and prey animals
* Villages in buffer: There are 79 villages in Tadoba buffer zone spread over 1100 sq km area in Chandrapur and Brahmapuri
* Villages with EDCs: Of the 79 villages, 66 have eco-development committees that look after community development
* EDC & its members: EDC is run by villagers with a forester as its secretary. Every EDC has a micro plan and grants are released according to plan and priorities
* Money generated: The money from gate fee earlier used to be deposited with treasury but now goes to TCF. Tadoba foundation generates over a crore every year
* Money distributed: More than Rs1.5 crore has been distributed to EDCs in the last three years since the TCF got activated
* Villages getting money: Apart from TCF funds, other sources include CAMPA, 13th Finance Commission, SC/ST and tribal development heads. From TCF, priority is given to EDC villages. In 2011-12, Rs26.52 lakh, Rs26 lakh in 2012-13 and over Rs1 crore in 2013-14 distributed from TCF.
* TCF money in A/C: Funds are not distributed in cash but deposited in joint bank accounts of EDCs to ensure transparency and prevent misuse.