Itanagar: Authorities of the Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh, the only one in the world to have four species of big cats, have strengthened surveillance mechanism to prevent encroachment, a major cause of concern.
The NamdapHa National Park and Tiger Reserve, a 1985 sq km protected area in Changlang district, is facing a serious threat of encroachment by 84 families of Yobin (Lisu), a tribe originating from China that had migrated several decades ago, they said.
As many as 270 households of the tribe have encroached upon 30 sq km in the buffer zone of the national park, the authorities claim.
Despite the efforts made by the park authorities to stop encroachment, many fresh cases have been reported in recent times, a forest official said.
We have strengthened our surveillance mechanism in those areas of the park, where encroachment is possible, by way of staff mobilisation and constructing suspension bridge for patrolling, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Milo Tassar said.
In February this year, three illegally constructed structures around the 40 Mile area of the park were dismantled, Tassar said.
The park is home to tiger (Panthera Tigris), leopard (Panthera Pardus), snow leopard (Panthera Uncia), and clouded leopard (Neofelis Nebulosa).
The encroachment is not new and is reported to have started in 2005-2006, the official said.
While the state government had conducted several rounds of meetings with the members of the tribe and offered rehabilitation packages either in form of land or cash, no visible solution is in sight, the official said.
As per the revised rehabilitation package, the government has offered Rs 15 lakh per family or land outside the park as an alternative, Tassar said.
It is reported that many villagers have been carrying out cropping activities inside the park in the last few years.
We have zero tolerance towards encroachers and an eviction drive will continue until the biodiversity hotspot area is freed from illegal settlers, Tassar said.
An official of the park, on condition of anonymity, said that there are eight recognised encroached villages within the buffer zone of the park and resettlement dialogue will continue only with the villages recognised by the government.
The official also said strict action would be initiated according to the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 if there is any attempt by new settlers to settle inside the park.
Earlier, due to lack of road connectivity, the forest officials could not regularly visit the interior areas of the park. Taking advantage of it, many settlements came up. But now, due to improved connectivity, the vigilance by officials has improved, the official said.
Locals allege that the tiger population at the park is declining due to encroachment, a claim denied by the authorities.
Forest officials said the number of tigers in the park has increased to 11 as per the 2018 tiger estimation report.
A researcher with the state government’s forest department said that there have been human disturbances in the area over the years that may have pushed tigers outside the Namdapha Tiger Reserve to areas where there is less human presence.
The Yobin or the Lisu is an ethnic group living in three countries India, China, and Myanmar.
While the government says that they have encroached on land belonging to a protected tiger reserve, community members argue that it has been their home forever.
Combined with the remoteness of Vijoynagar and Gandhigram (the nearest town of Miao, the headquarters of Changlang district, is at least over 150 km away), the absence of road connectivity, and written records, it is unclear when the people of the Lisu tribe first migrated to the area.
Conflicting claims by the different ethnic groups living in the region also add to the confusion.
The Yobin is known as Lisu in China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, northern Myanmar, and in the hills of Thailand.
In India, they live in the remote hamlets of Vijoynagar and Gandhigram under Changlang district bordering Myanmar.
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