GUWAHATI, Sept 6 � Asserting that the Centre would lend its weight behind conservation efforts in Kaziranga and elsewhere in Assam, Union Minister of State (Independent charge) Prakash Javadekar today said that the onus was on the State Government to address the mounting concerns such as rhino poaching and deforestation.
�We want the State Government to be active on the conservation front. The Centre is always there to support conservation initiatives. I have seen that the people of Assam are passionate about conservation, and their commitment to rhino protection is total. The State Government has a responsibility to supplement the people�s commitment,� Javadekar, who winded up his two-day visit to Assam, told mediapersons today.
The Union Minister also announced that the proposed Special Rhino Protection Force to be raised from local recruits near Kaziranga, would be funded by the Centre. He also announced a Centrally-sponsored insurance scheme for frontline staff. He promised to get the CBI probe into rhino poaching �expedited and fast-tracked� to get to the �roots of rhino poaching.�
Urging the State Government to facilitate the transfer of the subsequent additions to Kaziranga at the earliest in view of growing space constraint for herbivores, especially rhinos, Javadekar said the southern buffer of the Park running parallel to NH-37 should also be protected.
�The buffer contains six notified animal corridors widely used by animals, especially during floods. Those should be declared an eco-sensitive zone and protected from anthropogenic and industrial pressures,� he said.
Javadekar urged the Forest Department to be more pro-active in pursuing the poaching cases so that the abysmal conviction rate of some two per cent could be bettered. As of now, very few of the arrested poachers are convicted in a court of law, and hence the arrests are not having the desired deterrent effect.
Javadekar said the State was set to get a huge amount under the Compensatory Affrestation Fund once the pending Supreme Court case was settled.
�Funds to the tune of Rs 33,000 crore are waiting to be disbursed among the states as 95 per cent grant. The SC verdict is likely within a couple of months, and this will go a long way in addressing the conservation problems,� he said. He also said conservation and development should go hand-in-hand in a sustainable manner.