The state government has sought more time from the Chhattisgarh High Court to submit details of steps taken by it for issuing notification for constitution of Guru Ghasidas tiger reserve.
The move comes following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by wildlife activist Ajay Dubey alleging inaction by the Chhattisgarh government in notifying the tiger reserve, despite the Centre approving it in 2012.
"Learned Deputy Advocate General seeks for time to get instructions with regard to the prayers sought for in the writ petition in connection with the declaration of the area as 'Tiger Reserve' and as to whether any final notification has been issued by the state in this regard," said the order issued last Monday.
In the PIL, Dubey said the delay on part of the state government in issuing notification for the tiger reserve was beyond comprehension.
"It has been more than eight years since the central government asked the state to notify the tiger reserve. It is beyond anyone's comprehension to understand such a long delay in doing it. The state government should immediately notify the reserve," he said.
The proposal to declare Guru Ghasidas national park as a tiger reserve was made in June 2011 by then minister of state (independent charge) for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh to then Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh. The area was surveyed by the Wildlife Institute of India in 2010.
The national park lies between two important tiger reserves -- Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh and Palamau in Jharkhand -- and is also contiguous with the Sanjay-Dubri tiger reserve (Madhya Pradesh). It is over 400 km from state capital Raipur.
"Though the prey population in the habitat is low at present, it has considerable diversity. Therefore, with good management and protection under Project Tiger, the area has a potential for supporting a viable tiger population along with the Sanjay-Dubri tiger reserve," Ramesh had said.
Concerned over delay in notifying Guru Ghasidas tiger reserve, Dubey moved the High Court.
"The said area is also having a great importance for the entire nation for the simple reason that the said area happens to be the natural habitat of 'Asian Cheetah' and the last Cheetah in India was hunted in this 'Korea' region only," his petition said.
The proposed Guru Ghasidas Tamor Pingala tiger reserve is already a part of the existing Guru Ghasidas national park and Tamor Pingala sanctuary. "This tiger reserve will cover Korea, Surajpur and Surguja districts."
The status of tiger population and their conservation efforts urgently require formation of Guru Ghasidas Tamor Pingala tiger reserve, Dubey said in his petition.
"It is clear that the proposed tiger reserve has great significance and would be an asset to the state of Chhattisgarh as well as entire nation. Further, it will also generate employment for the locals and revenue for the state government," the plea said.
Chhattisgarh has three tiger reserves -- Indravati, Udanti-Sitanadi and Achanakmar. It has around 19 tigers in its reserves, less than estimated 26 in 2010 and 46 in 2014, according to an NTCA data on the big cats census of 2018. The country has an estimated 2,967 tigers in its various reserves, the data said.
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