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Illegal resorts proliferate in Bandipur buffer zone

Divya Gandhi

Forest Department battles two more projects



On Tuesday, the department booked a case against Tropical Wilderness and Wellness Village Private Ltd., which owns land near the Bandipur park.

Bangalore: Resort owners appear to have set their entrepreneurial eye on the picturesque north-eastern fringes of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, often operating with total impunity in the vital wildlife corridor.

The Forest Department has on its hands two more cases of illegal land acquisition or construction in this buffer zone: in Bachalli and Mangala villages (Gundlupet taluk). This, barely a month after a major “villa” project came to light in Jakkalli village in the same taluk.

On Tuesday, the department booked a case against the owners of Tropical Wilderness and Wellness Village Private Ltd., who own 28 acres of land in Bachalli village 600 metres away from the park boundary.

More difficult to bring to book is an older project Tiger Ranch owned by an MLC from the BJP, according to sources.

The ranch has operated for nearly a decade near Mangala village, on land acquired illegally from tribal communities, they add.

As for the Tropical Wilderness and Wellness Village resort, the owners have built a wall and cleared sections of the forest violating at least three important legal requirements, K.T. Hanumanthappa, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, told The Hindu.

Clearing natural forest requires the permission of the Forest Advisory Committee under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, which it has not obtained. The project, being located in a wildlife migration corridor, also requires the permission of the State and National Board for Wildlife.

And while the land has been bought legally from the residents of Bachalli village, the resort owners have not applied for changes in land use pattern from forestry and agriculture to commercial use, Mr. Hanumanthappa said. However, action against Tiger Ranch, which is close to a critical water source, the Mangala reservoir, is more complicated because of the political clout at play.

The scrub forest of this zone happens to be the only area where blackbuck and hyena are sighted in Bandipur Tiger Reserve, he said and added that it also supports other large mammals such as elephants, tigers, leopards and wild dogs. Recently, the Forest Department submitted a proposal to the Union Ministry to declare the area in Gundlupet taluk as an eco-sensitive zone (under the Environment Protection Act 1986).

The Forest Department on Monday wrote to the Chamarajnagar district administration expressing concern over the three projects and urged the Deputy Commissioner to expedite evictions and reclaim the land.

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