Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Comments by Ashok Sharma, I.F.S Contd

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

Forum Post

Rule 13 practically covers all possible sources for gathering evidences with regard to establishment of rights. However, a word of caution needs to be put across to the nodal authorities that forest resources in the country are not inexhaustible.  In fact, they are suffering depletion at an alarming rate. The instant Act while tackling the core issue of poverty among tribals, may have just released the genie of greed among the expectants, specially since OTFD, who out number the tribals by a factor of three or more, are now part of the exercise. Forest areas in non Scheduled / Tribal Areas States stand to be affected in a major way by way of loss of forest land, productivity, biological diversity as well as water security. A lot, therefore, is at stake.

                        

Rule 16 - 21 concern declaration and notification of Critical Wildlife Habitats. The State Chief Wildlife Warden may have formulated his comments on the same. It would be in the fitness of things to obtain his comments on the impact of these rules on the wildlife existing outside PAs. There is a need for the Chief Wildlife Warden to exercise abundant caution while commenting on Rule 19, i.e. resettlement package as per section 4(2)(d). For this purpose, not only the existing provisions of the Constitution but also State laws pertaining to Resettlement would need to be studied. There are many areas where there would be need to “read between the lines”. Hence, assistance of legal experts should be actively sought.

 

THE ABOVE COMMENTS ARE OF A VERY PRELIMINARY NATURE. THE MOEF HAS NOT ALLOWED TIME FOR WIDER CONSULTATIONS. IT WOULD BE WORTHWHILE TO REQUEST THE MOEF TO URGE THE MINISTRY OF TRIBAL AFFAIRS NOT TO RUSH THROUGH THE PROCESS OF FRAMING RULES. IT MAY BE CONVEYED THAT FOREST DEPARTMENT IS ANTI TRIBAL. THE COUNTRY NEEDS TO STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN  CONFERMENT OF FOREST RIGHTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL SECURITY OF THE COUNTRY. IT MAY BE BORNE IN MIND THAT POVERTY IS THE BIGGEST POLLUTER. BUT LET IT NOT BECOME THE EXECUTIONER OF THE NATION’S BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES AND, THEREFORE, ECOLOGICAL SECURITY. WE ARE A COUNTRY OF OVER 1 BILLION PEOPLE, WHO OCCUPY BARELY 2.4% OF THE EARTH’S LANDMASS AND 1% OF THE EARTH’S FOREST COVER! OVER 17% OF GOBAL LIVE STOCK MAURADS OUR NATURAL LANDSCPES DAY IN AND DAY OUT. CONSEQUENTLY, OURS RIVERS CARRY 35% OF GLOBAL SILT LOAD! STATES LIKE MAHARASHTRA, WITH PER CAPITA WATER AVAILABILITY OF ONLY 595 CUBIC METERS / ANNUM, ARE ALREADY SITTING ON THE BRINK OF A WATER FAMINE. A MAJORITY OF OUR FORESTS OCCUPY UPPER CATCHMENTS. THAT TRIBALS OTHER POOR NEED TO BE ADEQUATELY COMPENSATED IS NOT DENIED. IN FACT, IT IS THE NEED OF THE HOUR. HOWEVER, THERE IS NO NEED TO ACCOMPLISH IT WITH AN ANGRY FIST POINTED AT FOREST ADMINISTRATION. THE EXISTING FOREST LAWS ARE QUITE ADEQUATE TO ACT AS THE FRAMEWORK FOR THE TRIBAL ACT. THERE IS A NEED TO WORK FOR ACHIEVING SYNERGY.

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Comments by Ashok Sharma, I.F.S -Contd

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

Forum Post

Rule 4.9 needs to be closely looked at in the light of Constitutional provisions cited above as well as existing provisions of Section 28 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Section 13 of the Act already clarifies that “save as otherwise provided in this Act and the Provisions of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas )Act, 1996, the provisions of this Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force. Therefore, rather than framing rules which tend to override even the Constitution, existing provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 may be used. Of course, it would involve restricting the definition of community forest resources to the legal limits of Panchayats / Gram Sabhas. It may be further borne in mind that ownership of MFP has been limited only to community and that too, in the Scheduled Areas.

 

Rule 4.11 concerns right to Intellectual Property and Biodiversity ( Section 3(1) (k) ).  The entire issue of access to biological resources has been addressed by another Central Act, viz. the Biodiversity Act, 2002. In so far as the question of Intellectual Property Rights is concerned, National Biodiversity Authority is the final Authority. Every State / UT is required to set up a State Biodiversity Board under that Act. It should be sufficient to provide in the instant rule that the enjoyment of right to biodiversity of a village shall be in accordance with provisions of that Act and rules made under the same. The Biodiversity Act already recognizes claim of the local community to bio resources and hence adequate and elaborate mechanism would be prescribed once the State Board is set up. Panchayats / Gram Sabhas have an important role to play in the management of local bio resources and are, therefore, vital stakeholders in the ownership of usufructs relating to the same.

 

Rule 4.12 & 4.13 concern  in situ rehabilitation and settlement of displaced persons.  MOEF should frame guidelines incorporating adequate safeguards for rehabilitation on account  of non forestry projects ( including resettlement in PAs ).  With these provisions  the entire burden of resettlement of the displaced persons from forest lands even for non forestry purposes would shift to forests, thereby converting forests into virtual  land banks. In the ensuing scenario of continuous fragmentation of forest lands, all thoughts of scientific forest and wildlife management should be abandoned.

 

Rules 5 (a) to (e) seek to shift the mantle of forest / wildlife management from the Forest Department to Gram Sabhas. This needs to be accomplished strictly in conformity with the provisions of Articles 243, 243A to 243O and their application to the Scheduled Areas. As already stated,  existing provisions of Section 28 of the Indian Forest Act. In fact, the existing draft may render the existing forest and wildlife management ineffective, which would be dangerous for ecological and water safety of India, specially Maharashtra. It would be in the fitness of things for the State Forest Departments to notify village forests, make rules for their joint management and hand over the same to the respective Panchayats. These forests may be defined as community forests or community forest resources in the Act.

 

Rule 7 needs to be in conformity with the Constitutional provisions existing with regard to Panchayats / Gram Sabhas. The State Legislatures have an important role to play in enactment of laws pertaining to Panchayats / Gram Sabhas. In fact, in States like Maharashtra, elaborate Panchayat Acts exist which have prescribed a distinct administrative niche for Gram Sabhas by way of development sub-committees. Care should be taken to ensure that the existing administrative frame work is not disturbed. The instant rule provides for election of members of the proposed Forest Rights Committee! It needs to be examined whether such a provision exists in the Village Panchayats Act. In fact, Forest Rights Committee should be formed in accordance with the provisions of the Village Panchayats Act.

 

Rule 12 :  There is a need for exercising abundant caution as “other traditional forest dwellers” ( OTFD ) may come to form bulk of the beneficiaries. It may be borne in the mind that about 24 million people inhabit forested villages in the State. There are, on the other hand, 9.1 million tribals in the State, not all of whom dwell in forests. The process of identification of OTFD is to be set in to motion by the Gram Sabha. We may be creating a class of people, who, stand to be called OTFD irrespective of their caste, creed and race and, above all, economic status besides political power.

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Comments by Ashok Sharma, I.F.S

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

Forum Post

Rule 4(2) of the draft rules seeks to include fuelwood and stones in the list of MFP. These are included in the definition of MFP in the Act.

 

            Rule4.3(a) needs to be qualified with the inclusion of MFP as defined in the Act rather than “all MFP regardless of whether they are nationalized, or previously restricted or prohibited and all items provided in all state Acts, Rules, Orders and Directions.”

 

Rule 4.3(b) in its application to forest areas outside the village boundaries, has the potential to lead to inter village conflicts.

 

Rule 4.3© The Act confers ownership of MFP on the beneficiaries under the Act. The question of payment of royalty should not arise!

 

Rule 4.3(d) is near impossible to implement in view of jurisdictional issues already discussed above.

 

Rule 4.3(e) goes beyond the scope of Section 3© wherein it is limited to “right of ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries.”

 

Rules 4.3(f)  & 4.3(g) similarly, go beyond the scope of the Act and serve to further limit the powers under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, with regard to transit to forest produce. Therefore, they need to be opposed.

 

Rule 4.4©  & 4.4(d)  may create right of communities from other States such as Kathiawadis of Gujarat, Graziers from Rajasthan, shepherds from various States thereby not only causing irrevocable damage to forests but also leading to inter community conflicts. In fact, the right to grazing should be subject to the carrying capacity of forests and be in conformity with the Grazing Policy / Rules framed by the respective States.  Forest grazing was made free in 1935, which only lead to vast devastation in natural forests. It is well known that grazing is the major cause of forest degradation in India.

 

Rule 4.5(a) may only legalize the pernicious practice of shifting cultivation.

 

Rule 4.5© & Rule 4.5(d) provide for  the role of traditional community institutions in the delineation and determination of customary habitat suo motu initiation of process of determination of forest rights by SDLC. This may lead to political interference, and should, therefore, be avoided. Suo motu determination of rights is not prescribed in the Act.

 

Rule4.8(b) right of the forest dwellers to MFP which is not prescribed under the Act, except for “critical wildlife habitats”.

 

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Comments by Ashok Sharma Continued

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

Forum Post

Some of the other glaring inconsistencies are:

 

            Rule 3 ( 1 ) defines the Gram Sabha. But the definition needs to strictly conform to the Constitutional provisions. It may be borne in mind that the provisions relating to thew Scheduled areas are restricted to only 2278 of the 15694 forested villages in the State. The Seventy-third Amendment empowers the Panchayat and not the Gram Sabha. The Bombay Village Panchayats Act, 1958, which was amended in 2003 to incorporate greater role for Gram Sabhas, deals with this issue differently. The expression,“Adult members” does  not find a mention in the Constitution. Instead, the Constitution mentions Gram Sabha as “a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls relating to a village comprised within the area of Panchayat at the village level.

 

Rule 3 (2) prescribes functions of the Gram Sabha under the Act, which, as per the Constitution, is a duty cast upon the State Legislature.

 

            Rule 3(4) prescribes for constitution of Sub Divisional Committee. Under Clause ©, it includes – The Forest Officer in charge of a Subdivision. This needs to be changed as this designation  may not exist universally. An ACF or SDFO would be a better proposition.

 

            Rule 4(1)(a) seeks to define “family” as mentioned in Section 4(6) of the Act. But, the definition appears to be at variance with provisions of Section 4(4) of the Act. The concept of more than one wife and that of dependent persons other than minor children seeks to expand the scope of claim as to a forest right. There is a need to restrict this definition.

 

            Rule 4(1)© also appears to overshoot the provisions of the Act in providing that “in case of community rights to land, the entire  area under actual use may be recognized and vested with the community.” Section 4(6) on the other hand, unambiguously provides that “where the forest rights are recognized and vested by sub-section (1) are in respect of land mentioned in clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 3 such land shall be under the occupation of an individual or family or community, on the date of commencement of this Act and shall be restricted to the area under actual occupation and shall in no case exceed an area of four hectares.” In Bhamragarh Forest Division, 35 tribal families are practicing shifting cultivation over 10,000 ha of forest land. The Forest Department of Maharashtra does not admit existence of shifting cultivation in the State. If the draft rule’s provisions are allowed to go unchallenged, the department stands to lose 10,000 ha of thick forests @ about 280 ha / family!

          

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Comments by Ashok Sharma , I.F.S

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

Forum Post

 

Comments by Ashok Sharma I.F.S

 

SCHEDULED TRIBES AND OTHER TRADITIONAL FOREST DWELLERS

( RECOGNITION OF FOREST RIGHTS ) RULES, 2007 

           

Of the 43711 villages in the State, 15694 are forested. The forested villages have a population of over 24 million which accounts for about 25% population of the State. There are 353 tehsils in the State, of which 27 are located in the Scheduled Areas, where 9.1 million tribal population of the State lives. The draft rules have the potential to cause  major adverse  impacts on forests and wildlife in the State, specially in light of the Constitutional provisions which many of these rules seek to override.

 

The Act defines “community forest resources” as customary common forest land within the traditional or customary boundaries of the village or seasonal use of landscape in the case of pastoral communities, including reserved forests, protected forests and protected areas such as Sanctuaries and National Pars to which the community had traditional access. However, Atricle 243G, which empowers Panchayats and not the Gram Sabha, to plan and implement village level schemes, does not include the same in the Eleventh Schedule, i.e. the Village List! The Provision of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas ) Act, 1996 also does not make any exception in this regard. Obviously, the Constitution does not envisage extending the powers of Panchayats beyond the Village limits.  The  Provision of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas ) Act, 1996, introduces the role of Gram Sabha in the village administration. The instant Act and the draft rules, however, seek to extend purview of the The  Provision of the Panchayats ( Extension to the Scheduled Areas ) Act, 1996 to the non Scheduled Areas too!

 

The Eleventh Schedule incorporates “maintenance of community assets” it item no. 29. However, it remains to be clarified whether this includes “community forest resources” per se. Although, the Indian Forest Act, 1927, as applicable to the State of Maharashtra, does not define “community forests”, it does provide, under Section 28, for the constitution of “village forest” But, such village forest also is limited to the boundaries of the village Panchayat concerned. “Community Forest” is also not defined either in the Act or in the Draft Rules.

 

Similarly, the Constitution empowers the State Legislature to powers of Panchayats / Gram Sabhas, for the Scheduled and other areas. Can this power  be over ridden by a set of Rules, made under a Central Law? The draft rules seek precisely to do so which appears to be going beyond the Constitutional provisions.

 

The Draft Rules introduce certain definitions which are not incorporated in the Act. They include “bonafide livelihood needs”, “claimant’, ‘fixed demand holdings”, “forest rights committee”, “other traditional rights” and “primarily reside in and who depend on forests or forest lands”. Under the definition of other traditional rights, traditional agricultural practices have been incorporated, which is a gross externality.

 

 

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Tribal Bill objections Continued

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

Forum Post

TIME LIMIT:-

Absence of a time frame for the determination of rights is a lacuna which could result in prolonging the status qou particularly by those individuals/Gram Sabhas who may be loosing out or may not be benefiting by the provisions of the Act. Hence, it is important that a time limit for completing the exercise be imposed in Rules 19, 26 to 29 and 34.

 

SURRENDER OF LAND/FUTURE ENCROACHMENT

The rules are completely silent on the mode and manner for the surrender of land/rights, which are declared to be beyond the permissible parameters or by those whose claims are rejected.  The rules are also silent on the issue of prevention of future encroachment/ occupation of forestland by the present beneficiaries or by the existing/future members of their families or by others. This pregnant silence carries within it a signal to hold on to illegally occupied forest land and to further encroach on forest lands, keeping in mind the pace of regularizations during the last four decades, that the government at some point of time in the immediate future, for reasons not very difficult to guess, would buckle under and regularize such encroachments. Absence of these twin checks would prove to be disastrous for the forests and wildlife and the ecology of the country.  

 

Drafted By:

Raj Panjwani,

Advocate.

 

 

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Tribal Bill Objections Continued

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

Forum Post

RULE 16:-

This rule confers rights over ‘disputed lands’ i.e. those forests, sanctuaries, national park lands where the final notification has yet not been issued. Rule 16 (2) shifts the onus of proof on the State by declaring that “the  presumption of rights over such disputed lands shall be in favour of the claimant unless otherwise decided.”. This presumption places the persons in illegal possession of the alleged disputed lands at an advantageous position in comparison to those who are in possession of other forestlands. In the case of persons who are in possession of non-disputed forestlands the onus is on them to prove their possession by producing evidence as enumerated in Rule 31. This classification in favour of disputed land occupiers is arbitrary. Secondly, the term ‘disputed land’ is vague and has not been defined under the Act nor explained under the Rules. Thirdly, the power conferred on the Gram Sabha and other executive bodies to decide on the “non-adherence to due process of laws” in Rule 16 (1) is   contrary to all prevailing jurisprudence. The issue whether an action or order is in violation of the due process clause can only be decided by a judicial authority. It is a judicial function and cannot be conferred on any of the executive authorities created or referred to under the said Act or Rules.

 

RULE 17:-

The incorporation of the clause “who may have been evicted without due process of law; pattas in forest villages and pattas issued but cancelled or extinguished without following the due process of law” in Rule 17 is illegal for the reasons stated above under Rule 16.

 

RULE 24:-

Duties and functions conferred under the said Rule are in violation and disregard of the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution and the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.

 

RULE 31 (4) (a):-

Admitting the claims of ‘other traditional forest dwellers’ on the basis of physical attributes/traditional structures/pictures would be travesty of justice particularly due to the exclusion of the Evidence Act. It’s a loophole which would lead to wide abuse as there would hardly be any one alive who could possibly vouch on the existence of an un-recorded structure to the effect that it has been in existence for the last over 75 years. A person vouching on the existence of 75 years old structure need to be atleast (75+12 =87) years old. Secondly, pictures by themselves would not establish the 75 plus years antiquity of such physical attributes/traditional structures.

 

RULE 31 (4) (b):-

The clause “recognized as having been legitimate resident of the village at an earlier period of time” as applicable to ‘other traditional forest dwellers’ is again vague and subject to interpretation which could be either way. It is suggested that proof for recognition of residence should be recorded in a public document and not a private document or oral statements.

 

(Continued in next post)

 

Drafted By:

Raj Panjwani,

Advocate.

 

 

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Tribal Bill Objections drafted by Lawyer

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

Forum Post

OBJECTIONS:

RULE 2:-

Parliament by section 14 (1) of the RFR Act delegated the  authority to the Central Government to “make rules for carrying out the provisions of the Act”. Section 14 (2)  of the said Act lists the parameters and purposes for which the rules can be made by the Central Government. The Central Government in the exercise of such delegated  power can not enlarge the scope of the provisions of the main legislation i.e. the Act. The Central Government by defining terms like “bonafide personal needs”, “other traditional right”, “primarily reside in”, “sustainable use” etc. has gone beyond the delegated authority.

 

RULE 3:-

Gram Sabha cannot be a judge its own cause and decide civil disputes between its own members in as much as all the adult members of the village constitute the Gram Sabha as per Section 2 (g) of the Act. Secondly, the Gram Sabha would be deciding the extent of customary boundary of the village. The term “Customary boundary” in itself is vague and which would lead not only to strife inter se Gram Sabhas but would also devastate the forest areas in issue. Reason possibly could be, each village Gram Sabha in order to out do the other, trying to take the maximum of forest produce from such unchartered imaginary boundaries.

 

RULE 11:-

Rule 11 (1): Inclusion of “any person wholly or substantially dependent on the family” within the term family is inconsistent with provisions of the Act. It could lead to abuse  for claiming extra benefits under the scheme of the Act.

 

RULE 13 & 14:-

Minor forest produce, its use and utility is just not limited or exclusive for the   residents of forest areas. The minor forest produce is an integral and a crucial component for the preservation and conservation of the flora and fauna of the area, particularly for areas which are ecologically important e.g. Sanctuaries, National Parks etc. Similarly, is the role and importance of water bodies, the use and control of which has been handed over to the Gram Sabha. There is absence of effective mechanism to monitor the “Sustainable” exploitation of such minor forest produce and water bodies. Keeping in view the provisions of Rule 24 in particular those of Rule 24 (3) which declares that in case of conflict between a decision of a the Gram Sabha and other usergroup e.g. forest or wildlife department, the decision of Gram Sabha shall prevail.

 

 

( Contd in the next post)

 

 

Drafted By:

Raj Panjwani,

Advocate.

 

 

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Abstract of article by Arnab Sen

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 10, 2007

Forum Post

Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill
The value of forests in the lives of local communities has been widely discussed in academic literature, yet forest use is a domain of contestation. The new Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill needs to be contextualised in the ground reality of conflicting interests and claims. First, the category of scheduled tribes is contested in social science discourse. Second, forest and tribal policy in India is not adequately sensitive to value systems of local communities and this creates considerable contestation between administration and the local people. This paper revisits these contestations in the worldwide body of academic discourse. There has been fair consensus in the literature that value systems and customary institutions of local communities have well-developed mechanisms that regulate sustainable lifeways and conserve local ecosystems, though unquestioning acceptance of these may also lead to errors. What is required is for policy to effectively deliver benefits to people and conserve biological diversity, and it is anthropologists who can mediate a dialogic space between the people, their civil society institutions, networks of advocacy, public and local intellectuals, the academia, policy and governance.
--Arnab Sen , Esther Lalhrietpui--
30-09-2006    [SPECIAL ARTICLES]
Issue : VOL 41 No. 39 September 30 - October 06, 2006

National Parks

Kalesar National Park (Haryana)

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 08, 2007

Forum Post

Kalesar National Park ( Declared in 2003), 150 km from Chandigarh, was in news recently for large scale illegal mining of sand by the builder/contractor lobby.  NDTV has done a series on this in July 2007.   The following trip report is taken from the website of Wildlife Trust of India, written in 2002.

http://www.wii.gov.in/publications/newsletter/annual2002/article3.htm

Kalesar – The Pride of Haryana
- Bivash Pandav

Pandav, what are you going to do this Saturday and Sunday? That’s what Dr. Johnsingh asked me over phone. I immediately knew that it must be for some week-end trip to some wildlife rich forest nearby. So quick came the reply from me, Sir I am free. Next moment Dr. Johnsingh asked me how about going to Kalesar Wildlife Sanctuary in Haryana.  The picture of Haryana in my mind was that of crop fields and Poplar (Populus deltoids) plantations. But what I saw after reaching Kalesar was an eye opening experience.

We left Dehradun early in the morning and took the Kadwapani forest road north of Shivaliks but parallel to the hill range. Both sides of the road to Kadwapani have luxuriant growth of Sal. During my earlier visits to this forest (largely on foot) I have had occasional encounters with sambar, barking deer, wild pig and Himalayan yellow-throated marten. As the northern slopes of Shivaliks are not ideal habitats for ungulates (because of absence of grass and dominance of unpalatable shrubs such as Ardisia solanacea, Clerodendron viscosum, Colebrookia oppositifolia, and Glycosmis pentaphylla in the understory), encounter rates of all these animals in this forest is extremely low. Moreover, the few herbivores inhabiting this patch of forest are also subjected to heavy poaching from nearby villagers. However, this Sal patch on the northern slope of Shivalik hills is very rich in bird life. Flocks of White crested laughing thrush and four to five individuals of Indian pied hornbill in a flock are not an uncommon sight in this forest. After a drive of about 15km along this road  we reached Chakrata-Saharanpur road. Then we drove towards Saharanpur along the meandering road across the Shivaliks of Timli Forest Range. Gujjar dheras were present here and there and from a distance the hills looked like an excellent goral habitat. Elephant dung in a few places in the rau indicated the occasional visit of the pachyderms.

After reaching Badsahibag we left the Chakrata-Saharanpur road and took a right turn towards the Yamuna canal. The serene look of river Yamuna was quite exciting. Anyone who has seen Yamuna flowing near Delhi will hardly believe that the water of Yamuna can be so clean and the sight of the river can be so refreshing here. But the serene look of river Yamuna and its refreshing environment was short lived for us and soon we came across large number of trucks and tractors on the river bed. All of them were busy in removing sand and boulders from the river bed. All these boulders were being carried to a stone crushing unit located on the right bank of Yamuna.

All along the 10 km drive along the road which goes between the canal and Yamuna river, till Ponta Sahib, we saw good number of wintering ruddy shelducks. From Ponta Sahib, Kalesar is half an hour drive on the Dehradun-Yamunanagar road. As we had informed Mr. Jakarty, Chief Wildlife Warden, Haryana, the wildlife staffs were waiting for us ready to take us into the forest to show us the tiger pug marks which they had located. The northern slope of Kalesar has Sal mixed forest. There are well marked fire lines in the forest. In one of these fire lines we got down from the vehicle and started walking along Sukh rau. Azad Singh, the wildlife guard of Kalesar accompanying us showed us a several days old pug mark of a tiger in Sukh rau. While inspecting the pug mark, Sultan Singh, another wildlife guard came and informed us about fresh tiger pugmark on the other end of Kalesar. We immediately decided to go and inspect this fresh pugmark which was in the Langdiwala nullah of Amwali khole (khole is the local name for river in Kalesar part of Haryana). The pugmark looked like that of an adult male. The nullah got narrower further upstream. The pugmark was quite fresh and we tracked it for 500 m along the nullah. On our way back we had a beautiful sighting of two gorals, a mother with a young. After seeing us both ran in different directions. It was amazing to see the mother goral negotiating the >70o slope effortlessly. Soon both joined and went out of our sight.

On our return from the forest, in the evening we went to the village Mamduwas, located on the right bank of Yamuna where nearly a month ago the pug mark of one tiger crossing the river from Uttar Pradesh (Shivalik Forest Division) side was seen. Most probably the tiger had made use of the aqueduct below the Yamuna canal and had walked upstream of Yamuna before crossing over to Haryana border. The riverbed being used by the tiger was heavily disturbed by people who were busy loading stones in trucks and tractors which were moving in and out of the river bed. Standing on the bank of Yamuna it was very difficult for me to believe that a shy animal like a tiger still makes use of this heavily disturbed river bed. But the truth was a tiger was using this area and there were pugmarks to prove this.

Kalesar Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses an area of roughly around 100 km2 and does not have any human habitation inside. On the north western side the forest of Kalesar is contiguous with the Simbalwara Wildlife Sanctuary of Himachal Pardesh. On the eastern side the Shivalik range extends till Panchkula. The remaining sides are surrounded by crop fields and dense human habitation. I learnt from Dr. Johnsingh that every winter one or two tigers from Shivalik Forest Division still cross Yamuna and use the forests of Kalesar and Simbalwara WLS.

In fact the very next day while walking along the Kaludev Khala (Khala is the local name of river in Simbalwara part of Himachal Pradesh), we came across fresh pug marks of a tiger/ess. With adequate protection both these wildlife sanctuaries can definitely support a good prey population for tiger. And then a contiguous patch of about 150 km2 forests can definitely support one or two tigers year round. Kalesar and its adjoining forests definitely have the potential of becoming a home for a small population of tiger provided the contiguity of forests between Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are maintained and the disturbances in the Yamuna river are totally eradicated in the area where the tiger/s cross. A co-ordinated effort from the UP and Haryana forest departments can definitely make Kalesar the pride of Haryana.




Copyright © 2001 - 2018 Indian Wildlife Club. All Rights Reserved. | Terms of Use

Website developed and managed by Alok Kaushik