Madhya Pradesh is a central Indian state which comprises parts of Semi-Arid and Deccan Peninsular biogeographic regions in India. The Satpura Tiger Reserve (STR) in the Deccan Peninsular region, is located in Hoshangabad district of the state. Founded in 2000, STR today encompasses 2,133.30 sq.km of dense woody forests of evergreen Sal, teak and bamboo. The PA is rich in biodiversity consisting of tigers, leopards, sambar deer, sloth bears, flying squirrels and crocodiles. Together with the Pachmarhi wildlife sanctuary and Bori wildlife sanctuary, STR forms the core area of the Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve, which was created in 1999 within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme.
There were an estimated 40,000 Indian tigers at the beginning of the 20th century, a number which dropped to a mere 1,872 in 1972. These concerns led to the constitution of Protected Areas (PAs) in major tiger habitats in the 1970s. However, since these areas were inhabited by the tribal populations who heavily depended on forest resources for rearing livestock and their own sustenance, the constitution of PAs triggered conflicts between communities and PA officials. Spread of diseases from domestic livestock to wild animals due to the sharing of waterholes and grasslands; increasing incidents of attack on people and grazing cattle by carnivores followed by the retaliatory killing of predators; hunting wildlife for sustenance and agro-pastoral activities often triggered the conflicts.
Therefore, STR facilitated relocation and resettlement of 38 villages with over 3,243 families from the core area, creating a secure habitat for wildlife and flora. The relocation was carried out in three stages; pre-relocation activities focusing on baseline assessments of infrastructure and training required for alternate livelihood through agriculture, reserve conservation activities and ecotourism; the consultation process with the villages regarding voluntary relocation and settlement packages; and relocation and post-relocation activities encompassing the construction of infrastructure and institutional development.
Eco- Development Committees (EDCs) were constituted by the State Government to conserve and manage biological resources in the buffer area under the guidance from STR officials and monitor development activities in the villages. The relocation released about 84 sq.km of forest land, providing an uninterrupted habitat for wildlife. Activities for habitat improvement have been carried out through weed management, restocking of grassland, building of water holes and transformation of reclaimed village sites into grasslands, to maintain a sustainable prey base. 130 patrolling camps have been established to monitor core areas and buffer zones to analyze factors for the decreasing trend of the tiger population. Forest area of 60 sq.km has been restored under the natural Sal tree and grassland vegetative cover contributing to ecological functions such as carbon storage, nutrient cycling and water and air purification. There is an increase in sightings of tigers, leopards, bears, chital, sambar and wild boars. The PA now exhibits lush grasslands that provide a suitable habitat to enhance populations of prey species. In order to facilitate agriculture, stop-dam and pond sites were identified followed by building bunds, digging culverts, installing tube wells for irrigation, and providing farm seeds and training on bio-fertilizers production. Infrastructure was created in terms of school buildings, primary health care centers, electrification systems, roads and biogas units. Wildlife tourism has generated employment for youth as guides, drivers and fire watchers. Their knowledge of topography, resting sites, forest pathways is being used for conservation purposes. A portion of total revenue from tourism activities is shared by the government of India, with local communities contributing to a substantial corpus for each EDC to carry out development activities.
The Satpura Tiger Reserve, received special mention in the India Biodiversity Awards (IBA) under the category ‘Protected Areas’ in 2014
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