Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Orissa struggles to protect wildlife in naxal-hit area

New Delhi (PTI): In the absence of the promised Central paramilitary forces, the Orissa Government is struggling hard to protect precious wildlife from poachers backed by Maoists in naxal-hit Similipal Tiger Reserve in Mayurbhanj district.

At a meeting between Central and state representatives in May, the government had agreed to deploy 221 CRPF personnel in the reserve which has been facing acute infrastructural and staff problem due to a naxal attack on March 23.

Fearing that naxalites might hit again, Orissa government had sought CRPF deployment in the tiger reserve housing at least 32 wild cats. The state government cited threats from poachers which it alleged are getting support from the heavily-armed extremists.

"However, though the Centre has agreed to our demand and referred the matter to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) we are still waiting for the force," a senior official in the Forest Department of the Orissa Government, told PTI.

He said the scared forest staff, who had run away after the attack, are gradually joining duty and two special striking force units of Armed Police and Special Operation Group Force have already been posted in the park, but they are not sufficient to make the reserve secure.

"There have been reports that poachers are getting support from the Maoists. Hence a re-run of the attack cannot be ruled out. To save the highly endangered tigers we need to have trained CRPF personnel," the official said.