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A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) concerning the Buxwaha Protected forest has recently been filed at the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Principal Bench at Jabalpur. The matter came up for hearing before a Division Bench (Vacation) of Hon’ble Justice Sheel Nagu and Justice G S Ahluwalia. Notices were issued to respondents. The Court has enquired from the respondent State Government that whether National Tiger Conservation Authority was involved in the decision-making process for grant of mining lease and whether provisions of Section 38O and 38V of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 have been complied with or not. The case is further listed on 21st June, 2021.

Buxwaha Protected Forest is part of the Buxwaha Sub-Division of the Chhatarpur Forest Division. It lies in close proximity to the Panna Tiger Reserve and is a tiger corridor. It has continuously observed tiger populations and movement. This population is most likely due to the spill over from Panna Tiger Reserve and the resident tiger population in the area. Most importantly, it serves as the corridor between the Panna Tiger Reserve and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary. It is also important to note that Nauradehi is connected to Pench Tiger Reserve. The Buxwaha Protected Forest, also boasts of various other Schedule I species such as the striped Hyena, Indian Wolf, Sloth Bear, Sambar, Chital etc.

The Panna Tiger Reserve has had a troubled past and the reserve recorded a local extinction of tigers in 2006 along with Sariska Tiger Reserve of Rajasthan, which lead to the constitution of the Tiger Task Force by the Government of India. The Tiger Task Force reported an alarming situation as the country had only 11.88% of its geographical area under dense forests, out of this only 1.56% can be classified as very dense with a canopy cover of 70%. It was this 1.56% area which constituted tiger habitat in the country.

On 4th September 2006, The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was amended to give statutory approval to the existing tiger project by the constitution of the ‘National Tiger Conservation Authority’. Panna Tiger Reserve has seen a steady surge in tiger population from ‘0’ in 2006 to ‘31’ tigers as per the Status of Tiger Report, 2018 due to tiger relocation efforts. Similar efforts have taken place in Sariska as well.

Currently, the government’s actions could affect the pristine and delcate wildlife habitat that exists in the area since they intend to undertake open-cast mining operations for kimberlite ore (diamond bearing ore). Through auctions, the land, 364 hectares of the area, known as Bunder Diamond Block in Sagoria Village falling under Buxwaha Protected Forest was provided for mining. This is a matter of major concern since the plan as per government records would render approximately 2,15,000 trees to be cut down for the mining operation in the area.

The Legal Aid Clinic (LAC), National Law Institute University, Bhopal is assisting the petitioners in the present PIL, as informed by Mr. Pranjal Agarwal (Convenor, LAC) and Mr. Aditya Goyal (Co-Convenor, LAC) under the able guidance of Faculty in-Charge, Ms. Kavita Singh (Asst. Prof., NLIU Bhopal).

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