The tiger continues to remain one of the most endangered large predators in the world. Based on empirical scientific data and simulation results, it has been established that a minimum inviolate area of 800-1200sq.km is required for a viable population of tiger (20 breeding tigresses). Further, an ecologically sensitive zone (buffer / coexistence area / multiple use area) of 1000-3000 sq.km is required around this inviolate space for sustenance of dispersal age tigers, surplus breeding age tigers and old displaced tigers. Together with the core area, this would maintain source-sink dynamics while sustaining a population of 75-100 tigers.
A tiger reserve consists of two parts, viz., ‘a core or critical tiger habitat’, and ‘a buffer or peripheral area’. Section 38V 4(i) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (hereinafter referred to as WPA, 1972) explains core or critical tiger habitats, identified on the basis of scientific and objective criteria, as areas of National Parks and Sanctuaries to be kept inviolate for tiger for tiger conservation, without affecting the rights of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers and notified as such by the State Government in consultation with an Expert Committee constituted for the purpose.
Section 38V 4(ii) of the WPA, 1972 explains ‘buffer’ or ‘peripheral area’ as consisting of the area peripheral to the critical tiger habitat or core area, where a lesser degree of habitat protection is required to ensure the integrity of the critical tiger habitat, providing supplementary habitat for dispersing tigers, besides offering scope for coexistence of human activity. The limits of the buffer / peripheral area are to be determined on the basis of scientific and objective criteria in consultation with the concerned Gram Sabha and an Expert Committee constituted for the purpose.
Thus, the voluntary relocation of people needs to be carried out only in the identified core / critical tiger habitats of a tiger reserve.
For voluntary relocation on mutually agreed terms and conditions, for the purpose of creating inviolate areas for tiger conservation forest rights in critical tiger habitats may be modified or resettled as per Section 38 V of The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 read with Section 4 of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.