The country’s prime tiger landscape of Nagarhole-Bandipur in Karnataka, India is witnessing another shocking violation in its Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ).
The construction of a so-called sprawling farmhouse (rather a resort) which is coming up in the ESZ of Nagarhole National Park has been stopped presently. In Karnataka, there have been instances in the last decade where illegal resorts have been demolished by authorities and therefore, former forest officials and activists call upon Mysuru DC to give orders for its demolition.
This is not just a ‘simple resort’ as the ambitious builder is making a “Channel to and from the Kabini Backwaters so as to bring water inside his land. Therefore, a Water Pond of size 22 x18 Meters is coming up. This is to attract the teeming wildlife like elephants, deer, tigers, leopard, etc to come right inside his resort from the backwaters. Activists voicing their serious concerns opined this must be the most “unique type of resort” in India where a landowner owning land in a tiger landscape has happily changed the Land use without taking permission from the Deputy Commissioner, Mysuru as also completely violating the ESZ Notification on Prohibited Activities.
FOREST DEPARTMENT ACTION
Taking cognisance of a series of violations committed by the landowner, on July 14, the DCF and director of Nagarhole National Park wrote to the deputy commissioner, Mysuru to take suitable action and cited all the rules and regulations under which violations have been committed by the landowner.
The construction of a building has been taken up in Survey No : 142/144 at N Belathuru gram panchayat of Antarsanthe hobli, HD Kote taluk violating all rules and therefore, a notice was also served on K S Narasimha Murthy, landowner by the Antarsanthe range forest officer (RFO) on July 13.
The construction of this sprawling building near the Kabini backwaters was taken up during the pandemic when authorities were busy dealing with other issues. Any change of land use pattern from agricultural and horticultural to commercial use such as resorts or hotels is not allowed. Not just these, a channel has been dug up in the resort land till the Kabini backwaters which is the lifeline for many tigers, elephants and other wildlife. Only farms and agriculture-related activities can take place in the ESZ of Nagarhole which was notified in 2017 and even large-scale commercial agricultural and horticultural ventures by individuals or companies and commercial use of natural water resources are prohibited.
Both the Survey numbers fall in the buffer zone of Nagarhole Tiger Conservation Area while N. Belathur gram panchayat is part of the ESZ area as per ESZ notification dated July 25, 2017. The entire village falls under Mysore Elephant Reserve under the Nagarhole Tiger Conservation Area. One has to obtain a NOC from the jurisdictional range forest officer before any new structure or even expansion is taken up or even start of any construction work in the ESZ while any new resorts or hotels are not permitted.
The illegal construction of this resort was reported and brought to the notice of the authorities by activists on social media. United Conservation Movement Convenor Joseph Hoover alleged, “The resort or this so-called farmhouse is being built by a prominent State Wildlife Board member even as there is a 4000 square feet restriction in building a farmhouse in the ESZ. This violates the ESZ regulations and also hinders the movement of elephants between Nagarhole and Bandipur tiger reserves. Further, a three-acre reed patch which is the breeding ground for Smooth Coated Otters in the Kabini backwaters has been damaged.”
Presently, the construction work of the farmhouse has been stopped. The owner has been given a week’s time to reply to a show cause notice served on him, failing which suitable action will be initiated.
PRECEDENT OF ILLEGAL RESORTS DEMOLITION
A former PCCF adds, “In 2009, a fully developed resort built by Siddiqui was demolished in the same landscape just opposite on the other side of the river. The N Belathur village and many other villages falling in the ESZ in fact, abuts the Nagarhole National Park and are important areas for providing access to water for many big carnivores and herbivores like tigers and elephants. The construction of this resort will hinder the movement of wildlife to the Kabini backwaters in both Nagarhole and Bandipur.”
Further, if any such construction is allowed, this is a clear violation of the ESZ rules, the former PCCF adds. Added to this, this is a tiger corridor and as per NGT directions to Maharashtra Government, no disturbance can be caused to Tiger Corridors. In this regard, the Nagarhole authorities must stop any new civil structures in the Notified ESZ of Nagarhole. The protected wildlife landscapes receive immense protection under the Wildlife Protection Act and Environmental Protection Act, etc.