New Delhi: Noting that conservation of tigers is not a choice but an imperative, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called for considering them as 'natural capital' and underlined the need for collaboration between governments at highest level to check trafficking in their body parts.
Making a strong pitch for tiger conservation, he said it is "not a drag on development" and there is need to define conservation as a means to achieve development than considering it as "anti growth" and called for involving business groups in this regard.
"We need to define conservation as a means to achieve development rather than considering it to be anti-growth. I strongly believe that tiger conservation or conservation of nature, is not a drag on development," he said, adding that both can happen in a mutually complementary manner.
He on Tuesday inaugurated the three-day 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation where tiger range countries will discuss key issues including anti-poaching strategies.
"Both can happen in a mutually complementary manner. All we need is to re-orient our strategy by factoring in concerns of the tiger in sectors where tiger conservation is not the goal. This is a difficult task but can be achieved.
"Our genius lies in smartly integrating the tiger and wildlife safeguards in various infrastructures at the landscape level. This essentially takes us to the much needed smart green infrastructure, while adopting a landscape approach," he said.
Modi said this approach would help us to involve business groups through corporate social responsibility for various initiatives towards tiger conservation.
He noted that keeping in mind the ecosystem value of tiger conservation areas, there is a need to consider them as 'natural capital'.
"Benefits from tiger conservation are enormous but intangible. We cannot quantify this in economic terms," he said.
Modi said the country's institutions have done economic valuation of a few tiger reserves and their study highlights that besides conserving the tiger, these reserves also provide a range of economic, social, cultural and spiritual benefits known as ecosystem services.
Maintaining that "conservation of tigers is not a choice. It is an imperative," the Prime Minister said, "I would also like to emphasise that regional co-operation is essential for combating wildlife crime" and called for a resolve to work together to protect the tiger and its space.
Modi said forests are inseparable from wild animals and both are mutually complementary.
"Destruction of one leads to destruction of the other. This is an important cause of climate change which is now affecting us adversely in many ways. This is a global phenomenon which all of us are grappling with," he said.