Q. Discuss the various reasons why the tiger population in India is increasing?
A. The four-year tiger census report, Status of Tigers in India, 2018, released recently shows numbers of the big cat have increased across all landscapes. The total count has risen to 2,967 from 2,226 in 2014 — an increase of 741 individuals (aged more than one year), or 33%, in four years. This is relevant not only nationally, but also globally — this is a majority of the world’s wild tiger population, of around 4,000 tigers.
• Most importantly, establishment of various program and institutions like Project tiger, NTCA, TraMCA, CA|TS, [TX2] goal, etc aiming at the protection of tiger and its habitat have contributed immensely in the rise of numbers
o The success owes a lot to increased vigilance and conservation efforts by the Forest Department
o From 28 in 2006, the number of tiger reserves went up to 50 in 2018, extending protection to larger numbers of tigers over the years
• Healthy increases in core area populations eventually lead to migrations to areas outside the core; this is why the 2018 census has found tigers in newer areas
o In Madhya Pradesh alone, 50 villages have been moved from reserves in the last few years
• Better trained and efﬁcient Forest administrators and rangers to deal with the issue of hunting and poaching
o There has been no organised poaching by traditional gangs in Central Indian landscapes since 2013
o It is not clear whether international pressure on the South East Asian countries where tiger merchandise is in demand has resulted in reduced poaching or whether it is stronger enforcement of laws, but poaching cases are on the decline.
• Providing suitable habitat with the availability of prey, water bodies etc.
• Limiting the tourists to peripheral areas and not core areas where tigers mate and small cubs generally are taken care of
o The increased protection has encouraged the tiger to breed
o Wildlife experts suggest that one of the biggest causes for the increase in numbers has been the breeding populations outside tiger reserves
• Over the years, there has been increased focus on tigers even in the areas under the territorial and commercial forestry arms of Forest Departments
o The brightest spot in the non-protected tiger-bearing areas is the Brahmapuri division of Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, which has more than 40 tigers
• People’s participation
o A conservation model focused on coexistence with tigers, and involved ‘Jan samarthan se baagh samrakshan’ (tiger conservation with people’s support) was undertaken in Panna
o Under the ‘Friends of Panna’ initiative, foresters met and shared information with every local on the revival plan and their role in it.
o The Reserve has been rated “very good” in the four evaluation cycles of the National Tiger Conservation Authority from 2006 to 2018. (7% increase every year, 0 to 52 in a decade)
• Lastly, experts believe that the jump in numbers could, to an extent, also be due to better reporting of data in 2018 compared to previous years, when data may have been under-reported from the ﬁeld
• Relaxations in norms to allow for a widening of highway and railway networks are the new threats, adding to the old ones of retaliatory poisoning and poaching
o The National Highway 7 (NH7), which connects Pench and Kanha tiger reserves, has just been widened
• Tigers, as well the animals they prey on, ﬁnd it hard to cross roads; for instance, a tiger died near Dehradun in 2016 after being hit by a speeding vehicle
• Most National Highways are slated for widening and upgradation, and most tiger reserves have State or National Highways around them
• Each year, thousands of animals die on the road. Apart from highways, railway and irrigation projects are coming up in tiger reserves, and the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will submerge 100 sq. km of Panna Tiger Reserve
Issues with Methodology
• In past operations, tigers below the age of 1.5 years weren’t included
o This has been brought down to 1 year. There is no separate number of tigers that this reduction has contributed
• There is something called conservation amnesia
o For every generation the baseline numbers change
o So, while numbers may have increased from the 2006 census, the ﬁrst census held in 1973, albeit with a different methodology, had also pegged the number of tigers at around 2,500
• The area surveyed has also increased compared to the last three census operations
• Highways and railways should not be expanded to encroach into tiger areas
• Irrigation projects should also avoid the areas
• Cost-beneﬁt analyses need to take into account the needs of wild animals
• Tiger populations in most reserves are concentrated in a part of the reserve. More areas within reserves can be made suitable for tigers by management tools, like securing grassland and strengthening protection measures
o There is 3,00,000 sq km of tiger territory in India, of which 89,000 sq km have reported tiger presence
o The remaining areas can support tiger populations if prey base is made available
• As quoted by our PM, development and environment do not need to come at each other’s cost, should be followed in letter and spirit
Higher tolerance for crowds
The higher tolerance for crowded spaces in India allows for people to get closer, because they don’t feel uncomfortable until it is very packed. The tipping point between what people can manage and what they feel is dangerous is very fine.
Officials’ refusal to learn from previous crowd disasters
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) released a report in 2014 with guidelines for crowd management, and disaster prevention and containment. It even holds training exercises with administrative departments to be prepare them for large-scale events. Yet, stampedes at religious gatherings, or otherwise, continue to occur as before.
WHAT TRIGGERS A STAMPEDE
Stampedes or crowd crushes usually start in places that are crammed beyond capacity with people (10 people per sqm or more). Jeff Wise, a science writer, classifies stampedes into two categories— unidirectional and turbulent. Wise explains that a ‘positive change in force’, such as a blockade, that stops the crowd or a ‘negative change in force,’ such as the opening up of a gate, that suddenly releases the accumulated crowds, can cause a unidirectional stampede. A turbulent stampede, on the other hand, occurs either when two high-density crowds move towards each other or when a static crowd is stirred by panic.
Open spaces, entrances and exits is suitable for the mass gathering so that there is enough capacity and there are no bottlenecks or other compression points.
Good crowd management plan that should be followed which includes to study the nature, timing, occasion, volume of the crowd
To monitor the movement of the people.
In case of overcrowding of staircases or pathways to alert people.
Safety kits and safety measures to be adopted
Fire extinguishers, medical kits, ambulance should be kept ready. Organizers should ensure authorized use of electricity, fire safety extinguishers and other arrangements meeting safety guidelines.
Well Equipped Security personnel
Adequate drills of security personnel before deployment; giving them instructions on crowd management and plus for unexpected situations.
Giving instructions to crowd Public address system
Proper public address system in order to counter baseless rumours which are in most case one of the main reasons for stampedes to occur.
Crowd stewards, monitoring potential changes in crowd behavior, and having sufficient entry and exit points are all crucial to maintaining a safe event.
Foremost important thing overhaul of the structures. Based on a quick study of the number of commuters, their origin and destination and the shortfall in carrying capacity of stations, the entry/exit points, staircases and foot over bridges need to be reengineered to increase throughput. This includes widening areas, adding new corridors and/or effectively diverting pedestrian movements to achieve minimum crowding in one area.
Stampedes are man-made disasters which can be completely prevented with proactive planning and flawless execution. Little precaution and efforts can save lives of hundreds and can avoid such man-made disasters. Also, it would do more good to invest in preventive measures for a change and protect human life.