On 1st September, 2020 the Government of Maharashtra formed an eleven-member Technical Study Group of headed by N.R. Praveen, CCF Chandrapur, to study the problem of human-wildlife conflict in the district. In March 2021 the Study Group submitted its recommendations to the government but since then not much has changed in the lives of the rural people of Chandrapur who continue to live in the fear for their lives and livelihoods.

Chandrapur district has more than 200 individual tigers apart from a sizeable population of other fauna. More than 9400 human-wildlife conflicts were reported between 2005 and 2020 i.e. incidents of attacks on livestock or humans as also incidences of crop depredation. Tigers account for more than 58% of these reported incidents while the rest have been caused by other wildlife like leopards or wildboars.
Some of the important aspects of the study group’s report include demarcation of zones according to the frequency of conflict incidents in the past and probability of such in the future, prediction of hot and cold spots of human-tiger interface, public perception and peoples’ concerns regarding wildlife conflicts. It also made suggestions regarding compensations both in terms of mechanisms as well as amounts. This is particularly important because the compensation for crop damages was being paid according to a GR passed in 2015. On the touchy issue of ‘translocation’ of tigers, the committee was of the opinion that a tiger that has repeatedly attacked humans should be tracked, accurately identified and removed. However, a tiger which has been involved in an attack and it is seen that the attack was an accidental one then the tiger should not be labeled as ‘problem’. Such an individual can be relocated in the same landscape instead of permanent captivity.
Given the fact that Chandrapur hosts more than half the tiger population of Maharashtra, there was a strong recommendation to declare the district a ‘Tiger District’ which would help in allocation of extra sources to the district for management and mitigation of wildlife conflicts as also better inter-departmental and inter-state coordination.
Unfortunately, the government which is battling the COVID pandemic alongside other disasters like floods has not had the time to decide upon the recommendations of the Study Group. Also, the implementation would have financial implications which could be a reason for the government’s delay.
The local people, however, are facing a serious situation where every week there are attacks reported from various villages of Chandrapur district. People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake and this could have a negative impact on the wildlife as well. Chandrapur district has been on the forefront of several community-based conservation efforts like the Joint Forest Management Programme and there are active environment and wildlife NGOs in the district. These conservation efforts over several decades have contributed immensely to the increase in tiger and other wildlife population making Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve an international tourist destination. However, in the face of continuous attacks on human lives and livelihoods the same rural community that has participated in conservation activities can become destructive and that will have extremely negative impact on the wildlife. Therefore, in the long-term interest of the wildlife if not the local people, the Maharashtra government should expedite its implementation of the report of the Technical Study Group.

– Paromita Goswami