More than 6,000 trees were illegally felled to start a tiger safari in the Kalagarh forest division of the Corbett Tiger Reserve, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) said in its report.
Uttarakhand’s forestry department had obtained clearance from the Union Ministry of Forestry, Environment and Climate Change for the tiger safari project and said only 163 trees will be cut down in the process.
Former Uttarakhand Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat laid the foundation stone for the Pakhro tiger safari in December 2020. Rawat had said that during his visit to the Corbett tiger reserve in 2019, for the filming of the Man Vs. Discovery Channel’s Wild, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken about developing a safari in the area to allow visitors to confirm tiger sightings.
Forest Survey of India is an umbrella organization under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. In its 81-page survey report, the Forest Survey of India found that around 6,093 trees have been illegally cut in the Corbett Tiger Reserve.
The report, compiled in nine months, also indicated that officials from the Uttarakhand Forestry Department have cleared around 16.21 hectares of land for the project.
The Uttarakhand Forest Department has not yet accepted the report’s findings. Senior Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief of Forestry Force Vinod Singhal said the department has made some detailed observations regarding the India Forest Survey report and sent it to the organization.
“We want to know what timeline and what satellite images they used, how they got to this figure of 6,093, what method they used to interpret the data and things like that,” Singhal told the newspaper. “According to our records, there was permission for the felling of 163 trees. But then we found out that 97 more trees had been cut down in the area. Now we want to understand how FSI has arrived at this figure of 6,093.”
The report was produced over the course of about nine months in the Pakhru, Kalushaheed, Nalkhatta and Kalagarh blocks. The FSI has stated that the area cleared under CTR is expected to be 16.21 hectares.
According to a senior official who wishes to remain anonymous, the estimated number of trees in the cleared area is 6,093, with a lower range of 5,765 and an upper bound of 6,421. The estimate has a 95% confidence interval and an error standard 2.72%.
In October last year, the state forestry department requested FSI to provide a clear status of illegal logging through satellite image analysis in the Pakhro area, which is in the buffer zone of the Tiger Reserve of Corbett.
“The felling of more than 6,000 trees, as the FSI report shows, also within the forest area, is nothing more than a national shame,” said Bansal. “Those responsible for all this should be sent behind bars.”
In April, cracking down on illegal construction and logging in Corbett, the state government suspended two forest service officers, JS Suhag, the then director of wildlife protection and chief executive of the Forest Planning and Management Authority.
In August this year, the state surveillance department filed a case against Chand and others for illegal construction and logging in the tiger reserve.
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