Underlining the fact that India's once-famed tiger population is on its last legs, union minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh, while inaugurating a media workshop on wildlife conservation here today admitted that that 17 out of the country's 38 tiger reserves are in ''a very, very, very precarious state".
With what is still the world's largest tiger population, India is a key player in efforts to conserve the dwindling species. But numbers have plummeted to just a few thousand, and wildlife experts say tigers could be extinct in 20 years.
Ramesh claimed that of the 38 tiger reserves, 12 were in good condition and nine were ''satisfactory''. He said the state of affairs around the tiger reserves would be improved, and barren areas around the reserves, would be developed and irrigated for re-located villagers.
A special panel set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in 2006 that thousands of villagers inside India's reserves would have to be relocated to protect tigers from poachers and smugglers. "We have to relocate 100,000 from these 38 reserves if we are to save the tiger," Ramesh told reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Although the government has paid compensation to uprooted families, Ramesh said they were sometimes moved to underdeveloped areas where they were not able to make a proper living. "Only about 3,000 have been relocated so far." It is not enough to give them money. We also have to provide livelihood security for them," he said.
"Wildlife management is very much an integral part of my ministry's priority. It may not get the headlines as much as global warming does, but I hope after Copenhagen, this global warming madness will subside. 2010 is the year of biodiversity. We have a summit in October on biodiversity in Nagoya (Japan). And now we all need to focus on biodiversity, which is far more fundamental than many of these things we are talking about in relation to Copenhagen," Ramesh said.