The State Forest Department has written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority-Project Tiger Division (NTCA), under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, to include Kali Tiger Reserve (KTR) in the Economic Evaluation of Tiger Reserves in India – Phase III, to be taken up in 2023.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden of Karnataka, Vijakumar Gogi, has written to NTCA that the Kali reserve represents great diversity in terms of tiger landscape, ecosystems and socio-economic conditions, and was therefore a fit case to be selected for the economic evaluation.
The letter follows an appeal by conservation activist Giridhar Kulkarni of Belagavi, who pointed out that the tiger reserves, apart from conservation of the flagship species, also offer a wide range of ecosystem services and have social, cultural and economic benefits to society.
Mr. Kulkarni said considering the contribution of tiger reserves not just for biodiversity conservation but also in generating ecosystem services, the economic evaluation should be conducted.
The evaluation is conducted once in four years by the Indian Institute of Forest Management, and Mr. Kulkarni said that it was the first-of-kind study not only in India but also across the world.
He pointed out that a pilot study was commissioned by NTCA for economic evaluation of select tiger reserves and the Phase I of the study taken up in 2015 focused on Corbett, Kanha, Kaziranga, Periyar, Ranthambore, and Sundarbans tiger reserves.
In Phase II, 10 tiger reserves were evaluated for their economic benefits and they included Annamali, Bandipur, Dudhwa, Melaghat, Nagarjunsagar Srisailam, Pakke, Palamau, Panna, Simlipal, and Valmiki reserves.
Mr. Kulkarni said KTR was located in the biologically sensitive Western Ghats, which was an UNESCO World Heritage Site and a global biodiversity hotspot. The KTR comprises Dandeli Sanctuary and Anshi National Park, and the reserve was home to tigers, leopards, wild dogs, elephants, Indian gaur, Great Indian Hornbill, Castlerock night frog etc. Besides, KTR formed an important tiger corridor of Central Western Ghats connecting the tiger habitats in Karnataka, Goa, and southern Maharashtra, said Mr. Kulkarni.
Citing the Phase IV monitoring records from KTR, he pointed out that 25 individual tigers show active utilisation of the landscape and the reserve was also the origin and catchment basin for Kali river apart from a number of streams, thus providing water security not only for wildlife but also for thousands of people.
Underlining the importance of conserving the landscape, Mr. Kulkarni pointed out that many dams and reservoirs like Supa, Kadra, Kodasali, Bommanahalli had been built across Kali river, besides hydroelectric projects and it was imperative to conserve the catchment basin of Kali and the adjoining forests, as they were constantly under pressure owing to various factors.