New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday (July 29) released the All India Tiger Estimation Report 2018 and said the country has emerged as one of the biggest and safest habitats for tigers in the world.

"With around 3,000 tigers, India has emerged as one of the biggest and safest habitats for them in the world," Modi said as he lauded all the stakeholders involved in the country's tiger conservation exercise.

"Nine long years ago, it was decided in St. Petersburg (Russia) that the target of doubling the tiger population would be 2022. We in India completed this target four years in advance. This is the finest example of Sankalp Se Siddhi (Attainment through Resolve)," he said.

He invoked two Bollywood movie titles to emphasise the need to expand and strengthen tiger conservation efforts.

The story of protecting tigers that started with "Ek Tha Tiger" (there was once a tiger) and reached "Tiger Zinda Hai" (the tiger is alive) should not end there, he said, efforts towards conservation should be expanded and sped up.

PM Modi said that the development versus environment conservation debate would continue with both sides, suggesting as if these are mutually exclusive, but it was possible to strike a healthy balance between the two.

He said that while in the last five years, the focus was on to build the next generation infrastructure in the country, there has also been an increase in the forest cover and number of protected areas.

"In 2014, the number of protected areas was 692. The number rose to more than 860 in 2019. Similarly, the number of community reserves were 43 in 2014 and rose to more than 100 in 2019," he said.

He said India would build more homes for its citizens and also create quality habitats for animals at the same time.

"I just want to tell the people associated with this work that the story which started with Ek Tha Tiger and reaches Tiger Zinda Hai should not stop there. This will not work. The work towards tiger conservation has to be expanded and sped up," he said.