A sloth bear photographed at night. The study suggests declaring the sloth bear as a flagship species for the proposed conservation reserve. Photo from Vindhyan Ecology and Natural History Foundation.

“Declare the area as a conservation reserve”

The study noted that the forest area of Mirzapur is facing severe threats from activities like mining, logging, hunting, unsustainable construction and infrastructure development, the encroachment of forests and watersheds and forest fires. It proposed a conservation reserve in Mirzapur forest division which will include Marihan, Sukrit and some parts of Chunar and Lalganj ranges with an area of approximately 408 square kilometres. 

India’s network of the protected area comprises national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves and community reserves. At present, the country has a network of 869 protected areas spread across an area of 165,158 square kilometres which is about 5.02 percent of India’s total geographical area. 

Conservation reserves are declared for the purpose of protecting landscapes, flora and fauna and their habitat outside protected areas. They are often declared with a focus on flagship species such as elephant, tiger, leopard etc. At present, there are 76 conservation reserves in India.  Among them, the top five states are Jammu & Kashmir (34), Karnataka (14), Rajasthan (10), Uttarakhand (4), Punjab (4) and Himachal Pradesh (3).

According to India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, a state government may, after having consultations with the local communities, declare any area owned by the government, particularly the areas adjacent to national parks and sanctuaries and those areas which link one protected area with another, as a conservation reserve for protecting landscapes, seascapes, flora and fauna and their habitat. 

The present study stressed that the forest ranges proposed to be declared as conservation reserve are also of strategic importance for the conservation of wildlife and maintaining the genetic diversity as they are contiguous with protected areas and are part of a larger landscape used by a variety of wild fauna as habitat and meeting their resource needs. 

“The forest ranges Marihan, Sukrit and Chunar is an ideal representation of the Vindhyan landscape and connects Eastern Kaimoor landscape consisting of Ranipur wildlife sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh and Son Gharial wildlife sanctuary, Sanjay Dubri tiger reserve and Bagdhara wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh with western Kaimoor landscape consisting of Chandraprabha wildlife sanctuary of Uttar Pradesh and Kaimur wildlife sanctuary of Bihar,” the study explained.

“These forests also act as a huge catchment of different rivers and streams which helps in maintaining the water levels and providing water to many reservoirs and dams in this region which are critical for sustaining agriculture and other drinking water needs,” said the study while noting that in recent years there has been an increased disturbance to the forests from human activities such as conversion of forests for infrastructure development, mining, agricultural expansion, logging etc. 

It cautioned that the loss of connectivity between different forest ranges is a matter of deep concern and declaration of conservation reserve will be the first step towards a landscape-based conservation approach.

The study noted the conservation reserve is proposed only in the areas already recorded as reserve forests and the villages in and around these reserve forests. “No resettlement or rehabilitation of existing villages are recommended and the forest division will involve the people dependent on forests for better management of forests and ensuring that the rights of people traditionally dependent on forests for livelihood are least affected,” said the study.

Banner image: A striped hyena photographed in the proposed conservation area. Photo from Vindhyan Ecology and Natural History Foundation.

Article published by Mayank Aggarwal
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