Pressure mounting on State to distribute 7,600 acres to the landless poor

Vested interests are bringing pressure on the State government to distribute 7,600 acres in the Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS) to the landless. The final decision on protecting the sanctuary is in the hands of Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy.

Several representations asking the government to distribute the land to the landless poor were given to the Chief Minister when he visited Kaikaluru during his three-day visit to Krishna district.

With Andhra Pradesh hosting the International Conference on Biodiversity at Hyderabad in October, it remains to be seen how far this ecological hotspot will be protected by the State government and become an example.

While there seem to be several problems in the demarcation and cordoning of the KWS, the Central government has, by notification, declared all the land (around 300 square km) within the 5+ contour as sanctuary.

Kolleru Lake is also a Ramsar site and is protected by the international convention. Considering the kind of avian fauna that visit and reside in it and the variety of aquatic flora, the Lake qualifies for a biodiversity hotspot. The 7,600 acres that are in dispute include the Atapaka “Pittala Doddi” renamed as “Pelican Paradise” after the return of the Grey Pelican to the lake.

Both the State and Central governments are obliged to tread cautiously on the issue in the wake of the International Bio-Diversity Conference to be held in Hyderabad next month in which delegates from 193 countries will participate.

The Chief Minister, however, did not make any announcement at Kaikaluru. He said the issue was brought to his notice recently and that he could not make any announcement offhand. He promised the people that he would study the matter thoroughly and then get back to them. He said he would appoint a subcommittee to look into the matter.

Chief Wildlife Warden A.V. Joseph came himself to represent the Forest Department’s case, but the subject did not come up for discussion during the review meeting as the Chief Minister was behind schedule.

Meanwhile, vested interests that have the support of a Minister are pushing for the distribution of the land.

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