Thousands protest against Indian tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu
Around 15,000 people protested yesterday against the extension of a tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu, as residents nearby are worried they will lose their homes and land when the extension is built. This is the third protest since November again the extension.
The demonstration however was not against the extension of te 321 sq km core of the reserve, but the designation of a buffer zone, where families have not been given any monetary incentive to move, but organizers say they don't have to, because they want the people living there to take part in the project as trackers and guides for tourists.
The reserve has only been declared one since earlier this year as it is part of the government's project called 'Project Tiger' to protect the rapidly decreasing number of their native Tigers.
There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago. A government census report published this year says the tiger population has fallen to 1,411, down from 3,642 in 2002, largely due to dwindling habitat and poaching.
A special panel set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in 2006 that thousands of poor villagers inside India's tiger reserves would have to be relocated to protect the endangered animals from poachers and smugglers. Some experts have put the number at around 300,000.
Poachers and smugglers exploit the grinding poverty of forest villagers to keep them on their side. Authorities have tried educating the villagers, handing out monetary incentives and drafting them as informants.