Tiger conservation efforts in India received an important shot in the arm this week after the Confederation of Indian Industry signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Bank to improve the dialogue on sustainable development and conservation, between business, conservation stakeholders as well as decision-makers in policy.

The new initiative to promote tiger and biodiversity conservation is called the India Wildlife Business Council (IWBC) and as an institutionalised platform for collaboration its objective will be to reverse the massive dwindling of the tiger population owing to rapid industrialisation, habitat fragmentation, poaching and illegal trade.

The initiative may prove to be timely, as it comes in the wake of comments in 2010 by Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), that intergovernmental efforts thus far “failed miserably and… are continuing to fail” to halt the growth of illegal poaching and trade in tiger body parts. He also noted at the time that although the tiger had been prized throughout history, “it is now literally on the verge of extinction.”

Yet on the occasion of the signing of the MoU with the World Bank Chandrajit Banerjee, Director-General of CII emphasised the potential for convergence between private industry and conservation stakeholders on preserving tiger habitats. “Economic growth and environmental conservation are not mutually exclusive objectives. ... We will work with industry through the IWBC to promote green growth models, aligning business strategies focusing on a triple bottom line approach – on profits, people and planet,” he said.

Signing the MoU on behalf of the World Bank Robert Zoellick, World Bank President, similarly expressed optimism that new business and policy models could give priority to tiger habitats while designing land and infrastructure plans, citing in particular initiatives such as Smart Green Infrastructure. This way it may be possible to achieve the target of doubling tiger population worldwide by 2022 through, Mr. Zoellick noted.

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