TAMIL NADU - Gram sabhas oppose creation of the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve
Posted on Jun 14, 2012
The WLPA stipulates that approval from the gram sabha is essential before tiger reserve status is awarded to a reserve forest area.
Before local communities are asked to shift out of a reserved area, authorities are required to seek the opinion of the gram sabha on whether it believes the people can co-exist with the wildlife. Also, relocation packages and compensation plans have to be approved by the gram sabha, which has the right to reject proposals of the government.
Gram sabhas in all 19 tribal-majority panchayats in the region comprising the proposed Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve recently passed separate resolutions opposing the creation of the tiger reserve. The resolutions said the forest department (FD) had not consulted the local communities on the project, though Section 38 V of the Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) makes it mandatory to do so.
The WLPA stipulates that approval from the gram sabha is essential before tiger reserve status is awarded to a reserve forest area. In addition, the government is required to constitute an expert panel to study the impact of declaring an area a tiger reserve on the local community and the findings must be discussed in the gram sabha in the presence of forest officials, environmentalists and social scientists. Before local communities are asked to shift out of a reserved area, authorities are required to seek the opinion of the gram sabha on whether it believes the people can co-exist with the wildlife. Also, relocation packages and compensation plans have to be approved by the gram sabha, which has the right to reject proposals of the government.
The Bhavani Sagar MLA, PL Sundaram said that the FD was all set to create the tiger reserve but the local communities have not been part of the process at all. The MLA had prompted the concerned gram sabhas to adopt resolutions condemning the forest department's move. He, along with representatives of 10 panchayats in Thalavadi, six in Sathyamangalam and three in Bhavani Sagar also planned to meet the Chief Minister of the state with a request to restart the entire process by taking the local community into confidence and abiding by the applicable laws. They would also press for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act in Sathyamangalam to protect tribal groups living in the forest fringes from forced eviction. (Also see PA Updates Vol. XVIII, Nos. 2 & 1 and Vol. XVII, No. 6 – Website: http://www.kalpavriksh.org).
Source: ‘Tribal v illages oppose tiger reserve in Sathyamangalam’, http://economictimes.indiatimes.co m/03/ 05/ 12.
Contact: S. Mohan Kumar , Tamilnadu Pazhangudi Makkal Sangham, Sathyamangalam, Erode District, Tamil Nadu.
CR Bijoy,CoimbatoreHuman Rights Forum.
Backround from Wikipedia
There is a proposal to declare this sanctuary as a Tiger Reserve due to the large number of tigers seen in the area. On July 15, 2010, the Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, requested the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M. Karunanidhi to: "consider the possibility of proposing the Sathyamangalam Wild Life Sanctuary as a Project Tiger Tiger Reserve, vis-a-vis the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 as the area is contiguous with the forests of Chamrajnagar-Bandipur-Mudumalai".
On April 1, 2010 The Government of Tamil Nadu said it would soon initiate action to declare SWS as a tiger reserve because many tigers are consistently being sighted in the forest here. This tiger reserve declaration is expected to strengthen wildlife conservation efforts, as the sanctuary managers will get more financial support from the central government. The Government of India may provide support to appoint an additional anti-poaching watchers and fund the establishment of anti-poaching camps.
On April 6,2012, Chief Wildlife Warden Rakesh Vasisht said the proposal to have a tiger reserve in Sathyamangalam has been sent (to the MOEF for approval and funding).
Incidentally, in 2008, the Karnataka Forest Department had sent a proposal to also declare the contiguous Biligiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, as a Tiger Reserve. The proposal to notify the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary as a critical tiger habitat was subsequently approved in 2010. 
On March 10, 2011, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife said that the proposal for according tiger reserve status for the Sathyamangalam Reserve Forests is under consideration. He said that studies using camera traps and scats indicated there could be 19 to 25 tigers in Sathyamangalam forests. He added that Tamil Nadu might have 100 to 110 tigers based on the camera traps and scat examination done in Tamil Nadu's three tiger reserves: Mudumalai National Park, Indira Gandhi National Park and Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve The Sathyamangalam forest is the only reserve forest in South India with a significant presence of tigers, that is not yet declared as one of the tiger reserves in India.
A 2011 camera trap tiger density study by World Wildlife Fund ( WWF) at the SWS indicated that the sanctuary is home to at least 25 tigers. A DNA based project initiated by the state forest department collected 150 samples of pugmarks from Sathyamangalam forests and 69 of them were found positive for tigers by tests conducted at the Centre for Molecular Biology in Hyderabad. The lab findings indicate that the region is home to up to 30 tigers. In a 2010 wildlife survey, 46 tigers were sighted in the Sathyamangalam forest area.
Supported by these reports, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department has prepared a detailed report to the state government supporting the tiger reserve proposal. This proposal will come up for consideration before the Tamil Nadu Council of Ministers in early 2012.