Context: In the 50th year of ‘Project Tiger’ in India, the Centre is considering translocating a few big cats to Cambodia, where the species have become extinct in the last decade.
About the Project Tiger
- Launch: It was launched in 1973 from the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand.
- It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
- It was initially launched in 9 Tiger reserves (TRs) in different states of India.
- Objective: To ensure the survival and maintenance of the tiger population in specially constituted Tiger reserves throughout India.
- It provides central assistance to tiger range States for in-situ conservation of tigers in designated tiger reserves.
- Implementing Agency: National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) was established through Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006 to provide statutory authority to Project Tiger.
- Funding pattern: Centre provides financial assistance to States of 60% and 50% for expenditure on all non-recurring items and expenditure on recurring items respectively. North Eastern and Himalayan States are provided 90% central assistance in both cases.
The Role Played by the ‘Project Tiger’ in Strengthening Conservation Efforts for Tigers
- Establishment and development of new TRs: From nine tiger reserves covering 18,278 sq km in 1973, ‘Project Tiger’ has expanded to 53 reserves encompassing over 75,000 sq km (approximately 2.4% of India’s geographical area) today.
- Adopting core buffer strategy to manage TRs: The various tiger reserves were created in the country based on the ‘core-buffer’ strategy.
- Core area: The core areas are free of all human activities. It has the legal status of a national park or wildlife sanctuary.
- Buffer areas: The buffer areas are subjected to ‘conservation-oriented land use’. They comprise forest and non-forest land.
- Regular assessment of Tigers and their habitats: NTCA is conducting 5th cycle of assessment using application MSTrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers Intensive-Protection & Ecological Status), which records primary field data digitally using GPS to geotag photo-evidence.
- Anti-poaching initiatives: Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) is deployed in several TRs for focused anti-poaching operations.
- Independent monitoring and the evaluation of tiger reserve by developing Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) Framework as per international standards.
- Fostering awareness for eliciting local public support enabled by branding and marketing of project tiger.
- Scientific research and monitoring: The ‘Project Tiger’ has provided opportunities for scientific research and monitoring, which has led to a better understanding of the behavior, ecology, and population dynamics of tigers.
What Are The Achievements Of India In Tiger Conservation?
- Highest Tiger Population In The World: With The Current Population Of About 3,000 Tigers, India Harbours More Than 70% Of Global Wild Tiger Population, Which Is Increasing At An Annual Rate Of 6%.
- TX2 Achievement: India Achieved The Targets Set Under TX2 Initiative In 2018 (4 Years In Advance).
- Tx2 Is The Global Goal To Double The Number Of Wild Tigers By The Year 2022. It Was Adopted In 2010 At The St. Petersburg Tiger Summit By 13 Tiger Range Countries.
- CA|TS Accreditation: 14 Tiger Reserves In India Have Been Awarded With International Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS) Accreditation.
- CA|TS Are Globally Accepted Conservation Tool That Sets Best Practices And Standards To Manage Tigers And Encourages Assessments To Benchmark Progress.
What are the Concerns Associated with the Project Tiger?
- Habitat fragmentation: The creation of designated tiger reserves has led to habitat fragmentation, which can result in isolated tiger populations that are more vulnerable to genetic problems, disease, and other threats.
- Human wildlife conflicts and Retaliatory killings: Human-tiger conflict has increased in recent years due to factors like- habitat loss/fragmentation/degradation, saturation of tiger populations in certain regions, increase in human settlements and agricultural lands around protected areas etc.
- Limited genetic diversity: The expansion of tiger populations in designated reserves has led to inbreeding and a lack of genetic diversity, which can impact the health and survival of tiger populations in the long term.
- Structural and implementation issues with Project tiger:
- Lack of confidence and trust building between the forest department and the local communities leading to absence of their proactive participation in conservation efforts.
- Low capacity among local forest officials to effectively conduct surveillance and monitoring of tiger population.
- Lack of adequate protection in outside areas: As per the latest cycle of the All-India Tiger Estimation, 2018 nearly 35% of tigers in India are found outside tiger reserves.
- Issues related to rehabilitation and relocation of population from critical tiger habitats.
- Financial constraints in some TRs to undertake activities like restoration of habitats.
- Project Elephant is a Central Government sponsored scheme launched in February 1992.
- It ensures the protection of elephant corridors and elephant habitat for the survival of the elephant population in the wild.
- The initiative got in-principal approval in 2019 at the first meeting of the National Ganga Council.
- Project Dolphin is one of the activities planned under Arth Ganga, an ambitious inter-ministerial initiative of the government approved in 2019.
- It is a conservation effort for Ganges river dolphins and the riverine ecosystem.