Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, which successfully practiced comprehensive forest management through community based eco-tourism involving tribals, is emerging as India's best protected area by fulfilling all guidelines in this regard from Union Ministry of environment and Forests.
The reserve in Palakkad district of Kerala, which share border with Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Coimbatore district, is winning the rare recognition by competing with other top performing protected reserves Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kanha National Park, Gir National park and Corbet National Park.
According to ministry sources, Prambikulam's unique achievement would be declared officially at the United Nation's 11th Convention on Biological Diversity, which will begin in Hyderabad on October 8. In India, there are more than 800 protected areas and they include national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves, biosphere reserves, reserve forests, coral reefs and mangrove forests. Among them, Prambikulam has won the unique achievement by minimizing man-animal conflict apart from increasing its biological wealth. Further more, it is one of the few tiger reserves having clear buffer zone outside the access restricted core area to conduct tourism activities.
"After the Supreme Court ban on tourism in core areas, our tourism activities have came to a standstill. The only road leading to Parambikulam is through the core areas of Anamalai Tiger Reserve and as a result Parambikulam turned out of bound for tourists. It was a challenging face for us as the tribal forest protectors, watchers and guides with us had received salaries from the income came out of the tourism operations. However, we managed resources from other funds to support them and all the tribals work with us are now being used for forest protection activities,'' Wildlife Warden K Vijayanandan told TOI.
Hailing from Erode, Vijayanandan said Parambikulam was practicing tribal development through community based eco-tourism and over 250 tribals had turned beneficiaries of it. Acting as guides and helpers for visiting tourists, the tribals were able to have a dignified life in the sanctuary, which won reputation for forest management through tribal cooperation. Residents of traibal hamlets in Chungam Colony, Kadavu Colony, PAP Colony, Ancham Colony, Earth Colony, Pooppara Colony and Kuriyarkutty Colony were effectively rehabilitated as part of the eco-tourism project after the tiger reserve project came into force. Though the tiger project had forced the tribal residents to sell of their domestic animals like cows and buffalos and even prevented them from engaging in poultry management, the tribals turned a happy lot with getting steady income and dignified life through taking part in the tourism activities.
"Ever since the Joint Forest and Participatory Management was introduced, the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve has not witnessed even a single incident of poaching since 2004 and since 2007 there had not been a single incident of forest fire. We were able to do tourism in a very eco friendly way,'' said N Babu, a tribal who work with the forest management activities.
Parambikulam tiger reserve had recorded revenue of Rs. 1.25 crore during 2009-10 and it became Rs. 1.86 crore in 2010-2011 and in 2011-2012 it had risen to Rs. 2.45 crore. Of the revenue generated during the last year, Rs. 85 lakh was disbursed as salary to tribal people employed by the Forest Department, while Rs. 90 lakh was spent towards maintenance and upkeep. "Tribal people have become part of the Social Tiger Protection Force and are effectively combating forest and wildlife-related offences. Here there is no man-animal conflict,'' said Vijayanandan. The reserve has 15 to 18 tigers, it has been identified.