India — This small 61.10 sq km sanctuary is so rich in wildlife that Union minister for environment and forests has proposed it as a tiger reserve. But right now Bor wildlife sanctuary, just 60 km from Nagpur in Wardha district, has to overcome the pettiness of forest department.
Like all forest areas, it faces threat of fires in summer. Due to non-availability of funds, the authorities have curtailed fire line work by 88 km. This is despite the fact that there are six tigers in Bor. “This year, due to extended rains, tall grass has come up in and around the sanctuary, making it vulnerable to fires,” said a section of employees.
Sources said original proposal of fire lines was for 148 km. It included 69 km fire lines under Class I (outside sanctuary) and 70 km lines under Class II (inside the sanctuary). Now though it would be just 60 km in all (30 outside and 30 inside). Similarly, work on roads for tourists has also not been completed. Only 20 km roads have been done while there is no money for remaining 40 km.
Roads have been repaired at Garamsur, Bhulaidoh and Karai, while sensitive Khorikhapa, Sukli, Manoli, Salaikala, Kergondi and Khapri have been left out, jeopardising wildlife protection. Bad roads have also led to decline in tourists. In 2009-10, over 10,000 tourists visited Bor. This year not more than 1,500 tourists have visited the sanctuary causing huge revenue loss. “One reason is poor sightings and shabby maintenance of tourist complex. The solar water heater system is lying defunct for a year. How can you expect tourists here?” asked a tourist Satish Bhide.
Another issue is cut in number of van majoors doing frontline jobs. As minimum wages have increased, number of workers has been brought down to 16 from 30. Workers manning protection huts have been withdrawn. Existing workers are demoralised as they have not been paid wages for four months.
There is no money even to pay even power (Rs 15,000) and telephone (Rs 2,500) bills. Only a couple of days ago the bills were paid. Before that, Bor sanctuary office landline was dead for three months and MSEDCL had snapped power supply twice in December 20, 2010, and February 1, 2011.
Bills worth Rs 60,000 towards fuel used for patrolling vehicles are also unpaid. Employees are not getting their TA/DA. This is despite the fact that allocation for Bor has gone up from Rs 12 lakh last year to Rs 15 lakh in the current year. For the past four years, the staff has also not been given uniforms.
If drawing of fire lines is one crucial issue, work to clean water holes has not started yet despite Rs 50,000 earmarked for it. The natural water holes have started drying up and it’s time artificial water holes are cleaned up. There are 10 artificial and 28 natural water holes in Bor. Last year, filling of water holes had started from January 15.
A Ashraf, field director and conservator of forests, Pench Tiger Reserve, did not respond to calls made to him. Range forest officer ( RFO) C S Reddy admitted there were problems owing to erratic funds flow. “Temporary work force has been cut and works curtailed. However, all the work is being undertaken as per the annual plan,” Reddy said. He added real problems will start from April when there would be no funds.