Ecotourism in Gopinatham flayed
The budgetary proposal to formulate a new policy to enable the government to purchase the corridor area between two forest tracts to prevent human-animal conflict has evoked positive response from the officials.
Sources in the Forest Department said there are small patches of private estates and lands between two swathes of forests close to established wildlife corridors. If the private land could be purchased then it will help widen the corridor and enable the free movement of animals, the sources added.
A case in point is the requirement of nearly 50 acres to 75 acres of land abutting BRT Tiger Reserve and MM Hills for widening the Edyarahalli-Doddasampige elephant corridor. Sources said the local community was more than happy to surrender the land in lieu of compensation by cash or land allocation elsewhere. This is because some of the villages were on the fringes of the established ancient elephant corridors and there was no guarantee of an assured agricultural income because of the elephant movement that was high in the region. Though efforts were made in the past to widen the corridor it did not materialise as there were differences over the quantum of compensation.
But with a policy in place the officials say they could pursue the issue afresh and even be in a position to pay for the local farmers willing to sell their land to the Forest Department.
Though Karnataka did not have a policy as such for land acquisition to widen corridors, there were many such initiatives as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or NGOs purchasing land from private entities and handing it over to the Forest Department. But a policy for land acquisition for corridor widening is expected to give a fillip to the exercise, according to the officials.
However, NGOs are sceptical of eco-tourism activities including starting of a wildlife safari in Gopinatham area of Chamarajanagar district for which ₹ 5 crore has been allotted in the budget.
“These forests at MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and even the adjoining Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary should be out of bounds for the public. On the one hand the government announces projects for reducing human-animal conflict. On the other hand it promotes tourism and related activity which will have a cascading impact on wildlife in the long run’’, bemoaned a wildlife activist working in the region.
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