Why an animal park intended to protect the great Indian bustard was denotified in MP

The Madhya Pradesh government recently issued a gazette notification denoting the 202 sq km Karera Wildlife Sanctuary in the Shivpuri district of the state. In other words, the protection given to the habitat under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, has been withdrawn. In terms of area, this is the largest denotification of a sanctuary or national park, collectively referred to as the Protected Area (PA), in MP since the Wildlife Act came into force.

Karera Sanctuary was established in 1981 to protect the endangered Great Indian Bustard. The area was then known to have a bird population. Ghatigaon Wildlife Sanctuary, another PA not far from Karera Sanctuary, also had a population of Great Bustard.

To understand why the Karera Sanctuary was denotified, one must first assess the impact of the creation of a sanctuary or a national park on the lives of the people living within its boundaries, in addition to the impact on the commercial value of the property in the notified area. The last recorded sighting of the Great Bustard in Karera was in 1992. It is estimated that around 95% of the sanctuary area is agricultural land.

While villagers in the sanctuary have continued to practice agriculture on land belonging to them, their rights to buy or sell property, including in the notified area of ​​the sanctuary, have been taken away from them, in accordance with the provisions of the law. on wildlife. This caused a lot of resentment among the local population. Soon, demands began to be raised for denotification of the shrine to lift restrictions on land sales. The fact that the Great Bustard has not been seen since 1992 has helped the cause of those making the request.

A group of environmentalists resisting denotification have claimed that the endangered birds were deliberately killed to push for denotification. The denotification process for the sanctuary began in 2015, with the proposal being adopted by the State Wildlife Board and later approved by the National Board for Wildlife. The last notification of removal of sanctuary status for Karera came on July 22 this year.

There is also a request for denotification of the Ghatigaon Sanctuary, where the great Indian bustard has apparently not been sighted for over two decades. Forest officials say this demand is not as strong because the majority of the Ghatigaon sanctuary is forest area. However, calls have been made for the denotification of Sardarpur Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Dhar district. It had been put in place to protect the Kharmor or Little Florican, a smaller member of the Bustard family.

Forestry officials say denotification of Karera will not result in much loss of PA land, as an additional area has been notified as protected along Kuno National Park in Sheopur. Also, on July 22, 14 sq km of land in Karmajhiri was notified as a new Karmajhiri Sanctuary in Pench Tiger Reserve.

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