Fix­ing Corbett: Where to be­gin

Out­raged by the TEHELKA ex­posé, many readers have slammed the plun­der of Corbett’s legacy. But the tiger re­serve still has ev­ery chance if we in­sist on a few an­swers


GO­ING BY the wide­spread re­sponse from readers, the com­plex­ity and the scale of the mess at Corbett Tiger Re­serve ( CTR), as ex­posed by last week’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion ( Corbett. Now, On Sale, 12 May), has de­mor­alised many. Yet, it is very much pos­si­ble to fix ac­count­abil­ity and re­claim CTR. Con­sider:


The 4-km road was cre­ated af­ter an in­terim or­der of the Supreme Court had pro­hib­ited con­struc­tion of roads in­side CTR. The 2001 apex court or­der also de­fined the boundaries of CTR, which in­cluded the Dur­gadevi range where the Ja­mun road was con­structed by then CTR di­rec­tor DS Khati. In any case, con­struc­tion for non­forestry pur­poses is not al­lowed on forest­land with­out statu­tory per­mis­sions. Why was no ac­tion taken?


The 1996 SC judg­ment in the Go­davar­man case pro­hib­ited “all non-for­est ac­tiv­i­ties within the area of any for­est” with­out the Cen­tre’s per­mis­sion. Lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties have the right to fish­ing. But an­gling, a com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity, was al­lowed in­side a re­serve for­est in vi­o­la­tion of the SC or­der. The agree­ment also ex­ists in vi­o­la­tion of the Wildlife (Pro­tec­tion) Act, 1972, since 2010 when CTR no­ti­fied its buf­fer. Why didn’t the Cen­tre in­ter­vene?

The an­gling re­sorts are sup­posed to share a part of their turnover with the vil­lagers. Why has no in­quiry been con­ducted into their ac­tual earn­ings? The Ja­mun re­sort has been breach­ing many pro­vi­sions of Wildlife, For­est and Pol­lu­tion Acts with reg­u­lar drives across the river, cook­ing on the riverbed, us­ing forest­land, etc. Why was no­body pe­nalised?


The new en­trants to vil­lages such as Kalak­hand are us­ing the Ram­ganga riverbed as a road and car­ry­ing con­struc­tion ma­te­rial to their plots on horses and mules from dif­fer­ent sides through the CTR forests.

Their con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in­volve burn­ing down of for­est patches, felling of trees and quar­ry­ing sand and stone from the Ram­ganga river, all pun­ish­able un­der the Wildlife and For­est Acts. Why have the laws not been en­forced and of­fend­ers pun­ished?


The pro­posal for ac­quir­ing aban­doned patches of rev­enue land in­side CTR has been pushed re­peat­edly since 2000. The Cen­tral pol­icy is to of­fer com­pen­sa­tion to any vil­lage will­ing to re­lo­cate from in­side a tiger re­serve and funds were made avail­able to ac­quire land even out­side tiger re­serves in the past. So, why has the Na­tional Tiger Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity ( NTCA) failed to ac­quire these plots, which are now be­ing grabbed by the land mafia? Will the same in­abil­ity to fund re­lo­ca­tion out­side core ar­eas stall lo­cal ef­forts to shift Sun­derkhal and Chukam vil­lages, both out­side CTR core, that block vi­tal cor­ri­dors to the Kosi river?

More­over, the state gov­ern­ment’s pro­posal to re­lo­cate 181 Gu­j­jar fam­i­lies from the CTR core (Sona Nadi wildlife sanc­tu­ary) was sanc­tioned by the Cen­tre in 2003 and al­ter­na­tive land was iden­ti­fied in Chiri­a­pur range of Harid­war for­est di­vi­sion. All keen to move out, the fam­i­lies are still wait­ing and their num­bers have mul­ti­plied. Who is re­spon­si­ble for the de­lay? Why doesn’t NTCA of­fer cash com­pen­sa­tion to the ad­di­tional fam­i­lies and ex­pe­dite the re­lo­ca­tion be­fore the sit­u­a­tion gets out of hand?


In 2010, fol­low­ing a re­port by the Pusa In­sti­tute, the state chief sec­re­tary had asked the CTR di­rec­tor to draft a plan

for declar­ing Dhikuli re­sort belt on the east­ern boundary of CTR a “no­ti­fied area”, which would have bound ev­ery prop­erty here to con­struc­tion norms, land use spec­i­fi­ca­tions, etc. Why has CTR di­rec­tor Ran­jan Mishra failed to fi­nalise the plan even af­ter two years?

NTCA chief Dr Ra­jesh Gopal was made the nodal of­fi­cer for draw­ing up eco­tourism guide­lines far back in 2002. Why has he not been able to is­sue the said guide­lines in 10 years? Thanks to the de­lay, mush­room­ing re­sorts have com­pletely choked wildlife cor­ri­dors in and around Dhikuli and walled pri­vate prop­er­ties are now com­ing up in­side the re­serve.

Un­der pres­sure, NTCA’S

NTCA re­fused to se­cure CTR de­spite its man­date to fund re­lo­ca­tion of any vil­lage keen to shift

hur­ried ef­forts on 7 and 8 May to fi­nalise the said guide­lines mostly con­cen­trated on reg­u­lat­ing tourist sa­faris in­side the for­est — based on the quasi-sci­en­tific con­cept of a for­est’s car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity — while the real dam­age is be­ing in­flicted by a boom of walled, mega re­sorts on the out­skirts of forests.


Kosi and now Ram­ganga are be­ing quar­ried for sand and stone. Long stretches of the riverbeds have also been en­croached upon. Why hasn’t the ad­min­is­tra­tion stopped il­le­gal min­ing and en­croach­ment that are killing the lifelines of CTR and threat­en­ing the water se­cu­rity of Ram­na­gar town?


Since its man­age­ment plan ex­pired in 2008, CTR has been func­tion­ing with­out one. Why has CTR di­rec­tor Mishra not been made ac­count­able for fail­ing to draw up the plan? Why has NTCA chief Gopal been is­su­ing funds to CTR in the ab­sence of a man­age­ment plan?

In the past two decades, CTR’S man­age­ment plans have failed to re­solve fun­da­men­tal is­sues such as pro­vid­ing water se­cu­rity to wildlife in the south­ern parts or con­vert­ing vast stretches of eu­ca­lyp­tus and teak plan­ta­tions to nat­u­ral forests.

Since 2002, four pro­tec­tion forces have been set up with a tem­po­rary work­force of 340 daily wa­gers with­out cre­at­ing any in­fra­struc­ture. On the ground, there is no co­or­di­na­tion and ev­ery cri­sis re­sults in blame games among these four forces. Where is the sci­ence and vi­sion to se­cure one of In­dia’s best forests?


What is the sci­en­tific ba­sis for de­mar­cat­ing core crit­i­cal ar­eas? While de­graded forests dot­ted with vil­lages are in­cluded in the core to en­sure min­i­mum area re­quire­ment of 800 sq km in many tiger re­serves, undis­turbed, top qual­ity for­est ar­eas of Kala­garh were left out of the CTR core be­cause the na­tional park and Sona Nadi ar­eas made up for the base re­quire­ment. Who is re­spon­si­ble for such ar­bi­trary de­ci­sions?

CTR’S list of woes runs longer. But find­ing im­me­di­ate an­swers to these few may turn the wheel for In­dia’s most tiger-rich for­est.


Scal­ing new heights A few of many walled re­sorts be­tween Corbett and the Kosi; this one is owned by a lo­cal politi­cian

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