Relocation of wildlife in Indira Sagar Reservoir area affects tribals

forest officials of Narmada Valley Development Authority (nvda) launched an operation in March 2007 to shift monkeys and nilgai from an island in the Indira Sagar Reservoir area near Chhanera in Madhya Pradesh's Khandwa district.

Intermittent release of Narmada water into the reservoir's catchment area had marooned the animals on the islands. The rescue operation was part of nvda's effort to relocate and rehabilitate wildlife that were getting displaced as large chunks of forestland were getting inundated. Indira Sagar dam project has already submerged around 41,000 hectares (ha) of deciduous forests and has displaced considerable wildlife.

nvda has identified a cluster of five forest reserve areas, together called the Omkareshwar National Park, to rehabilitate the displaced wildlife.It demarcated an area of 65,100 ha in east Madhya Pradesh, between the Omkareshwar Reservoir and Indira Sagar Reservoir. "Relocation of wildlife is under completion,' says Vinay Varman, Conservator Forest (Wildlife), nvda. Barking deer, chitals, sambhars, nilgais, bear, wild boars and panthers have already been rehabilitated. "Relocation is being carried out mostly by haka (drum beating to direct animals through a corridor), and by making bridges and corridors of logs for animals trapped in inlands created post reservoir construction,' said Varman.

However, the rehabilitation is disrupting the livelihood of local tribals. A study by Ahmedabad-based Centre for Environment Education notes: "These far-flung villages are poorly connected to main roads and hence, its people depend on jungle produce for their livelihood. The villages also come within close proximity of the proposed park.' Official estimates say 31 villages, mostly inhabited by Bhil, Bhilala, Barot and other backward castes, are in close proximity to the proposed park but fall just outside the demarcated park boundary. There are fears that the situation might aggravate with the proposed park later opening up for tourists.