While on the one hand, the Government of India is spreading awareness to Save tigers, on the other, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has sparked off major concern after recently granting ‘in-principle clearance’ for uranium exploration over 80 sq kilometers of the Amrabad Tiger Reserve (Nallamala forest hills) in Telangana.
Even though the project’s approval is subject to the submission of all required documents, this singular decision by the government, in all likelihood, has not only put the life of the ‘big cat’ in jeopardy but also the pristine forests and biodiversity present in the region.
Apparently, this largest reserve in India houses around 20 tigers apart from other endangered species of fauna including panthers, spotted deer, leopards, sambar, sloth bears and wild dogs amongst many others. Quite naturally, fingers are being pointed out towards the looming danger.
Vasanthi Vadi, environmentalist and president, People for Animals, is opposed to the whole move. Apart from asking why the government wants to disturb the pristine land instead of protecting it, she wants everyone to unite for the cause. “No doubt there should be development, but not at the cost of our lives. Protecting forests is no more a pet subject. If we don’t protect our forests and wildlife, we will have to endure water crises like we are facing currently. Forests are directly proportional to our survival. At a time when people are demanding urban forests, how can the government go ahead with deforestation?” she questions. While it is assumed that the authorities will take all measures to mitigate the loss and ensure that the damage is minimal, the project is still at the preliminary stage, and there’s still a long way to go.
“It’s only a survey in exploration (and not uranium exploration) where holes will be dug to collect samples from the land. A concrete decision will be taken based on the survey results,” explains an official from the Telangana State Forest Department. But if the drilling takes place, naturally the flora and fauna of the area will be adversely affected. Since endangered species like tigers are sensitive to sound and other vibrations, should they be translocated then? Hyderabad’s Shafat Ali Khan, who has more than 40 years of experience in dealing with Forest animals, believes that translocating the tiger is a failed mechanism in our country.
“An adult tiger generally hunts once a week within its own territory. If translocated, it becomes difficult for them to adapt to new areas as they need to understand the geography. A tiger marks its territory by passing urine near a tree, and it can sense the invasion of another tiger in the zone through the smell,” reveals Shafath as he adds, “So the translocated tiger will clash with the already existing tigers in that area. They quarrel with each other, and one will eventually die.”
Surprisingly, amidst the hue and cry over the government’s decision to dig holes for uranium exploration, the District Forest Department (DFO) hasn’t received any formal statement from the centre as yet. “Even we have been reading a lot about the uranium exploration issue online and in the media, but we haven’t received any official communication so far,” reveals JoJi, DFO of Nagarkurnool district under the contentious Amrabad Tiger Reserve falls.