The center is anticipated to inform the Dibang Tiger Reserve shortly
Officials from the National Tiger Conservation Authority confirmed that the Union environment ministry will soon notify the Dibang Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, making it even less likely that the postponed Etalin hydropower project will be developed in the way it was originally intended. However, the indigenous Idu Mishmi people, who were opposed to the hydropower project, are also not very interested in the tiger reserve.
When announced, Dibang would be the first and biggest high-altitude tiger reserve in India, covering 4149 sq km, according to the environment ministry. The Idu Mishmi fear that by designating Dibang as a tiger reserve, their access to the area would be hampered.
On the occasion of Project Tiger's 50th anniversary, SP Yadav, the head of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), said that there are 53 tiger reserves in the nation and that many more would soon be added to the list. At a news conference on March 24, Yadav remarked, "For instance, Guru Ghasidas in Chhattisgarh and Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh would be declared very soon."
The environment ministry responded to questions from HT regarding the rationale behind the designation of Dibang as a tiger reserve by stating: "In 2013–14, for the purpose of assessment of tiger population, a preliminary rapid survey was carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in collaboration with NTCA, which confirmed the presence of tigers, as well as sizable diversity and abundance of prey populations. This exploratory research was done after the December 2012 rescue of tiger cubs from the Angrim Valley. The rescued tiger cubs marked the first time a tiger from the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary had ever been documented.
Yet, not all of the terrain has been assessed for the number of tigers. The state administration is now debating the plan to notify the Dibang Tiger Reserve.
There are 2 adult tigers in India, according to the 2018 All India Tiger estimate exercise. The international boundaries of the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary are in the north, east, and west. The sanctuary is located in the Eastern Himalaya Biodiversity hotspot and is crisscrossed by several rivers and rivulets that are tributaries of the Brahmaputra. According to the Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India 2018 report, which suggested naming Dibang a tiger reserve, the sanctuary is home to a number of endemic and globally threatened mammalian and avian species in addition to tigers, including takin, serow, gora, barking deer, Asiatic golden cat, marbled cat, and leopard cat.
The planned tiger reserve would be the biggest in terms of size and one of the highlights as the only high-altitude tiger reserve in the country, which is significant given the significance of tiger conservation in the state and the nation. With the improvement of the road/internet communication network in and around Anini, Dibang Valley district, this will encourage researchers and tourists (domestic or international) to visit such areas. That the place will be a highly sought-after tourist destination in the nation in the future, the ministry added in responses to HT.
In the Dibang Sub Basin of the Brahmaputra River, a number of hydroelectric projects are proposed, notably the 3097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project in Dibang Valley, close to the Dibang wildlife sanctuary, which is meeting with fierce resistance from indigenous people. The Forest Advisory Committee of the union environment ministry reportedly advised the Arunachal Pradesh government to start again with its application for the Etalin Hydroelectric Project, according to HT's story from January 18.
FAC's statement that the project cannot be taken into consideration in its current shape provided at least a brief reprieve to environmentalists and indigenous people who had been opposed to the project since 2020.
According to a fact sheet submitted to FAC (which must approve the project) on April 21, 2020, the proposal called for diverting 1165.66 ha of forest land and cutting down more than 2.8 lakh trees in dense subtropical, evergreen, broadleaf-, and subtropical rainforest. This has caused controversy, primarily because of concerns about the loss of biodiversity and the environment raised by experts.
Nevertheless, the Idu Mishmi people oppose designating Dibang WLS as a tiger reserve as well. This is true even if declaring the area a tiger reserve would provide it more legal protection from construction proposals.
The Mishmi people living on the Sino-Indian border claim tigers to be their brothers and take credit for tiger protection as they adhere to taboos against hunting tigers, according to Ambika Aiyadurai's 2016 research paper titled "Tigers are Our Brothers": Understanding Human-Nature Relations in the Mishmi Hills, Northeast India," which was also cited by NTCA in its 2018 tiger estimation report.
"Declaring the Dibang Tiger Reserve is unnecessary. Locals here protect tigers and other types of wildlife. The government shouldn't become involved in conservation efforts. We revere all large cats. They cannot be killed unless necessary for self-defense, and murdering a tiger is just as grave a sin as killing a person. Before contemplating informing Dibang, I believe the advantages of establishing Namdapha and Kamlang as tiger reserves need to be thoroughly examined. It may not fit with the group's values and way of life, according to environmentalist and Idu Mishmi community member Anoko Mega.