India says no to World Bank's tiger conservation proposal

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New Delhi, Jun 17 (UNI) The World Bank loan offer to help save the disappearing tiger has not found favour with both conservationists and the Government here.

''We have as such not rebuffed the WB offer, as it was invloved in so many projects, including some relating to eco-conservation in the country, but feel that the country itself has enough of expertise and resources to conserve tiger,'' a senior official of the Ministry of Environment and Forests told UNI.

''In fact we have told the World Bank that any support for any project in which tiger conservation was one of the components, was welcome, but an exclusive tiger conservation project brought in from outside was not required,'' the official said, when asked about reports of the loan offer.

Sources said the conditions associated with the World Bank loan might be very hampering for the Government's conservation efforts which were now closely integrated with the involvement and rehabilitation of the people living in the forest villages.

Echoing the same views, Mr Sujoy Bannerji of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) told UNI that they also thought that India has enough funds, enormous body of research data base and expertise for tiger conservation, so it does not need any outside expertise.

So far, the World Bank (WB) has been supporting only infrastructure projects, which have not been environment friendly, so the new proposal of the Bank might was being viewed with some reservation by conservationists, he added.

''Anyway, if the proposal is indicative of some new thinking in the Bank to review its own on-going projects from the point of view of conservation of the environment, then it was welcome,'' said Mr Bannerji.

The WB had, along with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), last week launched a new Tiger Conservation Initiative, which has been joined in by conservationists and scientists from all over the world.

On the occasion of the launch, the WB also brought about a report which has strongly criticised the present management of tiger reserves in countries like India in South and East Asia.

''The inconvenient truth is that under the current management systems, wild tigers are silently slipping away. Well-intentioned international, national, and regional support for tiger conservation over the last decade, has not reversed the decline in the tiger population,'' it said.

''In many of the tiger-range countries, the political will to address these concerns is limited, and conservation remains under-funded and a low-policy priority,'' the Report had said.

Rejecting the WB assessment of the present situation, the officials said tiger conservation was being given a high priority and ''the Government of India has no lack of funds for the task''.

The WB report has also listed poaching as the most immediate threat to the survival of the tigers, whose numbers have dwindled to just 4000 from one lakh within a century.

In fact, if the present trends continue, tigers may be the first species of large pradators to vanish in historic times, it said.

The Bank wanted to invlove in its initiative all tiger-bearing countries, especially India, which has the largest population of tigers in the world, and China, the biggest market for tiger parts.

But India, which has recently pumped in hundreds of crores of rupees for tiger conservation and has decades of experience and technical expertise, finds it is absolutely fine without the WB assistance.

However, the World Bank study found the spending on tiger conservation in countries like India still very low. For example, it said, in United States the federal budget for conservation is approximately 20 dollars per hectare. In contrast, expenditure on protection of in tigers Indonesia is as low as one US dollar per hectare and about two to three US dollars per hectare in India.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Environment and Forests maintained that the lack of funds is not the problem.

The Report has also noted that most tiger-range countries have introduced legislation aimed at protecting tigers and other biodiversity, but there was lack of enforcement of law.

Wildlife agencies frequently lack the very basic resources needed for effective management personnel, communication equipment, and transport, while the legal institutions need to convict offenders are often overstretched and under-resourced, the Report added.

Economic pressures have overwhelmed the virtuous intent of policy, and despite the designation of 'reserve status' to forests, the erosion and fragmentation of habitat continues due to encroachments and intrusive development, it said.

''The existing wildlife populations inhabit fragmented and isolated patches of land, constituting a meager seven per cent of their historic range. If the current trends persist, tigers are likely to be the first species of a large predator to vanish in historic times,'' the WB study said.

UNI NAZ SBC CS1622

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