To draw international attention on tiger conservation and protection, India will launch the Year of the Tiger on Valentine’s Day next year from Jim Corbett National Park, the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh announced.

India’s offer in this regard was accepted at a meeting held at the prestigious Smithsonian Institute, which was attended by other agencies including the World Bank.

“Today India made the offer for launching the Year of the Tiger internationally on February 14, 2010 at Corbett,” Mr. Ramesh said, adding the Year of Tiger would end in November 2010 with another tiger consultation in Ranthambore National Park.

“Both these events would showcase what India is doing in the field of tiger conservation,” Mr. Ramesh told reporters in an interaction after the meeting. The Russians are hosting the World Tiger Summit in Vladivostok in September 2010.

Noting that all these were meant to establish India’s leadership, Mr. Ramesh said 60 per cent of the tigers in the wild in the world are in India.

“No country in the world has as extensive conservation program as we have,” he said.

The World Bank, Mr. Ramesh said, which has started a global tiger initiative, is very keen on supporting India in its tiger’s initiative.

“The President of the World Bank is personally very interested in this project. And today we discussed a possible World Bank support for livelihood security projects in the fringe areas of tiger reserves,” he said.

Making a convincing presentation at the meeting, Mr. Ramesh said there could not be much progress to protect the tigers, the local communities’ needs to be fully involved in the task of tiger conservation.

Noting that the World Bank President Robert B Zoellick would be visiting India in December, Mr. Ramesh said: “We are working on a possible World Bank project for improving livelihood security in a couple of States to begin with — Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand, Kanha in Madhya Pradesh, Nagarhole in Karnataka and Kaziranga Assam.”

His ministry would be working on these details, but he has got an initial interest from the World Bank that they would be very keen on supporting such a project.

“This would be a very major attempt in creating an incentive structure, which will reduce encroachment on tiger reserve areas,” he said.

Noting that the Smithsonian has been training a large number of conservation biologist in India for last many years, he said it is particularly keen on a training program for conservation in our tiger reserves.

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