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SERVICES 
Monday, 21 January, 2002, 17:58 GMT
India launches conservation mega-plan
Rhino
Wildlife faces both poaching and habitat destruction
By the BBC's Ayanjit Sen in Delhi

India has drawn up a major 14-year action plan to protect wildlife, their habitats and people who live near wildlife sanctuaries.

The plan also includes restoration of degraded habitat outside national parks and sanctuaries.

It was decided in a meeting of the Indian Wildlife Board, chaired by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in Delhi on Monday.

White tiger and cubs
Rare species confront extinction

The plan follows the government's admission that wildlife conservation in India has been neglected in recent years.

India's bio-diversity comprises about 45,000 plant species and 81,000 animal species.

Environment Minister TR Baalu said to conserve these, there was a need to manage areas around wildlife parks and sanctuaries.

"A central government scheme is being implemented for eco-development of areas around national parks and sanctuaries," he said.

The Action Plan requires law enforcement agencies to prevent poaching.

The Wildlife Protection Society of India estimates at least 285 tigers were killed or suffered unnatural death in 1994-98.

Extinction fears

Experts say poachers kill nearly 1,000 leopards every year in India and warn the species could become extinct by the end of the decade.

The plan strengthens monitoring and coordination between Delhi and state governments.

The plan also includes utilisation of the potential for eco-tourism, using the revenues to increase conservation resources.

Elephants
Wild elephants need large ranges

Prime Minister Vajpayee said state governments should review the state of wildlife in their areas and take effective remedial measures.

The plan aims to protect the interests of poor and tribal communities living around protected wildlife areas by generating employment for them.

A member of the Wildlife Trust of India, Aniruddha Mukherjee, told the BBC protected forest areas were still used as a resource.

People plunder forests for wood, honey and other exchangeable products.

"The government has to educate the tribals and other people living near the protected wildlife areas about conservation apart from generating employment for them," Mr Mukherjee says.

India has 89 national parks and 497 sanctuaries covering an area of 1,056,000 sq km.

See also:

30 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Asia's vultures face growing threat
16 Oct 01 | South Asia
Poisoned water fears for elephants
27 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
India's tiger success story
29 Aug 01 | South Asia
Indian ranger killed by poachers
20 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
UN call to save key forests
05 Apr 01 | South Asia
Special tiger force in India
08 Mar 01 | South Asia
Wildlife police station in India
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