April 2012: The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) is one of the most important regions in India for the survival of the tiger and the elephant. Over 6,000 pachyderms (the world’s largest Asian elephant population), survive here alongside around 400 tigers. The value of this landscape is that it is the point of contact between the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats that links the Himalaya and Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspots.
The Sigur Region is right at the centre of the Protected Area network of the NBR, in the state of Tamil Nadu. This connectivity is key to the survival of these long-ranging pachyderms. Sigur, like so many other biodiverse areas around the country, is under threat as indicated by the several villages and settlements dotting it.
Resorts have mushroomed in the buffer area, large swathes of forest have been degraded by people taking fuelwood out, and illegal constructions are rife. To add to this we have widespread habitat fragmentation, largely thanks to illegal construction, fences and other sundry disturbances. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had issued directives to the state governments and in response, in 2010, the Tamil Nadu government even declared Sigur an ‘Elephant Corridor’ to stem the rot.
For reasons of their own, a motley group of politicians, social activists and even a few scientists have inexplicably opposed it saying the report titled Right of Passage: Elephant Corridors of India by the Wildlife Trust of India does not include Sigur as a corridor. The report, however, clearly states that its content was not exhaustive, while listing four minor corridors in the region.
Be that as it may, Sigur is the only link between two major bio-geographical zones (the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats) and covers three states. If elephants are islanded, which is a given if the corridor is snapped, isolated herds will eventually suffer inbreeding and the risk of local extinctions at the hands of poachers will rise dramatically.
On February 25, 2010, the High Court of Madras ruled that the state government has the power to declare regions as protected. The National Board of Wildlife committee concurred. But politics has reared its ugly head and the MoEF after issuing directives to protect corridors is itself dragging its feet.
Write to the MoEF asking them to:
1. Immediately implement the Tamil Nadu government directive and declare Sigur an elephant corridor.
2. Undertake the speedy removal of encroachments and other constructions in the Sigur corridor so as to guarantee the elephants and other wild species protection and free passage.
3. Implement this and other elephant corridor plans that elephant experts have listed and conduct a survey to establish other potential corridors.
Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister for Environment and Forests and Dr. Jagdish Kishwan, Additional Director General of Wildlife,
CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110 003.
Tel.: +91 – 011 – 24360721
Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,
Chennai – 600 009,
Tamil Nadu, India.
Tel.: + 91 – 044 – 25672345/0821