Nandhour Deserves Wildlife Sanctuary Status
October 2012: In December 2011, the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) took up the issue of notification of the Nandhour landscape, lying between the Gola and Sharada rivers in Uttarakhand, and which is a key part of the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), as a wildlife sanctuary.
This forest landscape extends over about 850 sq. km. and provides prime habitat for megafauna, including the Asian elephant, sloth bear, leopard, and, as indicated by recent camera trapping evidence, at least 10 tigers including a tigress with cubs, plus Himalayan black bear and the elusive serow. The hilly terrain, with good protection, can support a high density of sambar, which will augment tiger numbers. It is believed that tigers may have colonised this area from the adjoining Pilibhit Forest Division via the much disturbed Kilpura-Khatima-Surai corridor.
Additionally, the strategic location of the region as a prime link between the eastern and western Terai landscape, and the presence of vital river systems for irrigation and freshwater supply make Nandhour well worth the notification. Its potential as a tiger habitat is as good as that of the Corbett Tiger Reserve. Importantly, the proposed Nandhour Wildlife Sanctuary is completely uninhabited and great effort has been taken while choosing the boundaries of the sanctuary so that the existing rights of local communities are not affected by its declaration as a sanctuary.
The DFO, Nandhour had submitted a proposal to the state, explaining the importance of the valley and how it has a recovering, breeding population of tigers and other wildlife like elephants and that it is critical link for movement across the Terai Arc Landscape. The proposal was in the process of being considered by the Chief Wildlife Warden. Because of the slow progress, the issue was taken up by the NBWL Standing Committee members who requested the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to write to the Uttarakhand State Government so that the notification of Nandhour Wildlife Sanctuary could be expedited, as had been agreed to by the Minister for Environment and Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan.
The project hit a dead end when, in April this year, the State Government reversed its decision to declare Nandhour as a wildlife sanctuary and instead proposed to convert it into a conservation reserve – a move that will be inadequate since it will neither offer adequate legal protection, nor draw the kind of funding that is required to effectively protect wildlife. The Minister for Environment and Forests, in her letter dated September 18, 2012, has reminded the Chief Minister of the state’s obligations, stating that: “In order to ensure long term survival of wildlife in the important habitats located on the northern side of Ramnagar-Haldwani State Highway, the Forest Advisory Committee of my Ministry, in its meeting held in April 2011, while recommending a proposal for collection of stone, boulders and other minor minerals from the Gola river bed by Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation, had also stipulated, inter-alia, a condition that the State Government should notify areas such as Pawalgarh and Nandhour as Wildlife Sanctuaries in a time bound manner… Keeping in view of the ecological richness and the need for preserving the biodiversity of the area for posterity with the appropriate management tools, as well as the legal requirement of complying with the conditions laid down in the forest clearance by the State Government, I would like to urge you to take appropriate measures to ensure that Nandhour area is declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary at the earliest.”
One must presume that pressure is being brought to bear against the declaration of the area as a wildlife sanctuary, possibly because some local politician or other feels that this will come in the way of boulder mining and other development and commercial projects that border the proposed sanctuary area.
Nandhour harbours as many as 25 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 15 species of reptiles and 20 species of fish. It is currently being hammered by poachers and timber smugglers who have a free run of the unprotected forests.
Write to the Chief Minister at the address given below and ask for orders to be issued declaring Nandhour a wildlife sanctuary. Copy your message to the Chief Wildlife Warden. Nandhour can be protected. It deserves to be protected.
The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand,
4 Subash Road, C. M. Office,
Uttarakhand Secretariat, Dehradun, Uttarakhand – 248001.
Tel.: 0135-2650433, 2655177 Fax: 2712827
The Chief Wildlife Warden, Uttarakhand,
Camp Office, Chandrabani, Dehradun.
Telefax: 0135 2644691