the livelihood of 4,000 families of 44 relocated villages around Tawa reservoir in Madhya Pradesh's (mp's) Hoshangabad district is under threat. Fishing in the reservoir has been banned with immediate effect on the ground that the reservoir is under the Satpura National Park's protected forest cover. "Posters calling for an immediate ban have been distributed in the villages and have led to widespread panic among fisherfolk. Their only source of livelihood is fishing and strip farming around the reservoir,' rues Sunil Gupta of Tawa Matsya Sangh (tms), a cooperative of fisherfolk.
The national park's director R P Singh, in whose name the posters have been issued, reasons: "We are only the implementing agency; the order has been issued by secretary (forests), mp government.' Justifying the order, Sudhir Pawar, additional secretary (forests), mp government, says: "The Wildlife Protection Act was amended in 2002 and we are implementing it now.' The amended law forbids anyone from destroying, exploiting or removing any wildlife, including forest produce, from a sanctuary. It also prohibits destroying, damaging or diverting the habitat of any wild animal by any act.
This is not the first time the relocated villagers of the area are in trouble. In 2001, the lease of tms, their source of employment since 1997, was renewed only after several months of dilly-dallying by authorities. This, when the cooperative has been very instrumental in increasing the area's annual fishery production: 83 tonnes in 1993-94 (under the government) to 382 tonnes in 2004 with the efforts of the tms.
Fishing in the reservoir started in mid 1970s. The rights remained with the State Fisheries Department till 1979, after which they were transferred to the State Fisheries Development Corporation. The relocated villagers, with the help of Kisan Adivasi Sangathan, a non-governmental organisation, had to protest for nearly three years before they were granted fishing rights in 1997.
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