Forest and wildlife lovers are anxious about the adverse impact of the proposed bifurcation of the State on wildlife protection.
The 3,600 square-km Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Project which stretches from the Srisailam Project to the Nagarjunasagar reservoir will be divided into two. While half the project that is in Guntur and Prakasam will become part of Seemandhra, the other half in Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda will go to Telangana if the State gets divided.
The Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Project is the largest protected forest reserve in the State. The 24 other wildlife sanctuaries, put together, have an area of 8,000 square km.
The Papikonda National Park, which is comparatively small (600 square km), with a dense forest on either side of River Godavari will also be divided into half, with one half of the National Park that is in Khammam going to Telangana and the rest in West and East Godavari districts going to Seemandhra.
Besides the tiger these forests support populations of Panther, Wolf, Wild Dog, Hyena, Sloth Bear, Gaur (Bison), Black Buck, Chinkara, Chowsingha, Nilgai, Cheetal and Sambar (all different varieties of deer) and several types of birds and reptiles.
Honorary Wildlife Warden and wildlife conservationist K. Mruthyunjaya Rao said that the division of these prime wildlife reserves would make it all the more difficult for the conservation of these wild animals many of which were already on the list of endangered animals.
Despite the best efforts of the Forest Department the population of the Tiger was dwindling. Wildlife would be the first casualty if the new states decide to go in for new irrigation projects, he said.
Game hunters, wildlife poachers and smugglers prefer to operate on the border areas where the coordination between forest officials of the different states was not so strong, he said.
Maximum poaching and smuggling goes on in the forests that are on the borders of Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
Forest officials are also worried that the new borders would also make it difficult to pin responsibility on lower-rung department personnel.
The rivers that form the boundaries would provide easy escape routes for the perpetrators, the officials felt. The priorities of Telangana, which has a larger percentage of “production forest” with lesser wildlife population, would be different from that of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema which had higher percentage of “protection forest”, the officials observe.