The location is part of a critical wildlife habitat, say experts
Illegal resort coming up near Bandipur Tiger Reserve
Subhash Chandra N S, Bangalore, March 23, DHNS:

Even as the controversy regarding the proposed villas at Mangala village near Bandipur is still fresh in memory, another illegal resort is coming up near the tiger reserve.

The Gundlupet taluk officials have reportedly cleared the decks for the project in alleged violation of norms.

Tropical Wilderness and Wellness Village Private Limited had purchased 28 acres of land in survey numbers 475/1, 475/2, 476, 478/1, 501, 510, 511 of Yelachetty village on Bachalli village road in Gundlupet taluk. The forest land was cleared, allegedly without permission from the Centre, which is an offence under the Forest Conservation Act.

When the firm was clearing some of the forest patches with an earthmover, the squad of the Gundlupet Forest Division, which arrived on the spot, booked a case under Forest Offence (FOC no. 50/10-11). The Range Forest Officer, Gundlupet, booked a case against A Jagadishram under Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act 1976.

Though the land purchased is revenue land, it has natural forest adjoining the Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

Also, the location is in an important elephant corridor connecting Bandipur to forests in Tamil Nadu. The forest officials said the related land records were missing.

According to forest department sources, the land where the resort has been planned falls in the Kollegal reserve forest - in the jurisdiction of Deputy Conservator of Forests Narayana Swamy, who was trapped by the Lokayukta on March 20, 2011.

Experts say clearing forests without permission from the Centre’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), even if they are on revenue land, is in violation of a Supreme Court order.

Project promoters only have permission from the government to buy land, but not to clear the forest or build resorts in this critical wildlife habitat. This area has only scrub and stunted forests, but is extensively used by elephants, tigers, leopards, wild dogs and other large mammals as a migratory corridor. Since it comes under a critical wildlife habitat, the project promoters will also need permission from the state and national boards for wildlife.

The area where the resort is planned is also within the buffer zone of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and is part of the eco-sensitive zone identified under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Expressing concern over the increasing tourism activities in migratory corridors, a wildlife expert said: “Extensive tourism and construction of commercial and private resorts in important wildlife migratory corridors has become a serious problem to wildlife conservation in several of Karnataka’s protected areas.”

In a similar case in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, the High Court of Tamil Nadu had passed an interim order to remove all illegal construction of resorts and even the electric fences, which are posing a threat to wildlife.

Link - Illegal resort coming up near Bandipur Tiger Reserve