The Uttarakhand Forest and Rural Development Commissioner has directed the Compensatory Afforestation Management & Planning Authority (CAMPA), Uttarakhand chief executive officer to facilitate plantation of fruit trees in forests to mitigate the human-monkey conflict in the State with CAMPA funds.
However, talking to The Pioneer, the FRDC Vinita Kumar said that she had not been officially informed by the Forest department about its plan to sterilise monkeys. This is surprising considering the fact that the department plans to tackle monkey menace mainly through sterilisation by setting one centre each in Kumaon and Garhwal at a cost of Rs one crore. The sterilisation plan is opposed by wildlife activities and People For Animals members who had pointed out that this method had failed to resolve the human-simian conflict in Delhi and Himachal Pradesh.
Dumping of waste in the open, shortage of fruit trees in forests and increasing human settlements continue to fuel the conflict between humans and monkeys in Uttarakhand. In the letter written to Uttarakhand CAMPA CEO Vijay Kumar, the FRDC has directed him to use CAMPA funds for growing fruit trees in villages and settlements near forests which are affected by the presence of simians.
Wild bananas, berries, goose berries, jujubes and other fruits should be grown in such forests so that monkeys find enough food within the forests and avoid venturing into human settlements in search of food. The department has also been directed to grow fodder around villages and inform the Uttarakhand Livestock Development Board about areas where this work is started so that the ULDB can finalise its work plan on the basis of this information.
PFA Uttarakhand member secretary and Animal Welfare Board of India co-opted member Gauri Maulekhi welcomed the instructions of the FRDC, stating that planting fruit trees in forests is a more effective method to mitigate the monkey menace compared to sterilisation. It will be recalled that Lok Sabha MP and PFA chairperson Maneka Gandhi had also criticised the Uttarakhand Forest departmentâ€™s plan for constructing centres for sterilising monkeys to mitigate human-monkey conflict, calling it an ill-conceived plan.
Activists state that sterilisation of simians results in the deaths of thousands of monkeys and since it breaks up groups, it will actually increase the number of monkeys in the cities and in peopleâ€™s homes across the State. They fear that execution of such plans could actually decrease the tree cover in Uttarakhand by 20 per cent because the simians play an important role in seeding. Though activists still oppose the sterilisation of monkeys they have welcomed the FRDCâ€™s instructions to plant fruit trees in forests. It now remains to be seen whether her directions are followed effectively or relegated to official files.
Src: The Pioneer