13 hotels, five resorts around Bandipur have not secured NoC from Forest Department

Proliferation of resorts and hotels around Bandipur continues unabated, raising concerns about their impact on wildlife.

At the last count, there were 12 private resorts and 14 hotels close to the forests with many of them abutting Bandipur National Park in Chamarajanagar district.

Sources told The Hindu that permission from the gram panchayat, the Revenue Department and the Forest Department was mandatory for setting up hotels and resorts. The Revenue Department’s permission was necessary for conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.

However, it is relatively easy to get permission for constructing farmhouses which did not entail change in the land usage pattern. Thus, many residents in these areas convert farmhouses or individual residences to resorts. Though there is a clear demarcation of forest and revenue land, a vast swathe of land falls in the so-called “grey areas”. “These may technically be revenue land but their characteristics are that of a forest and they have green cover supporting wildlife. It becomes a problem when the Revenue Department issues no-objection certificates (NoC) without ascertaining the character of the land,” the sources said.

Officials said that 13 hotels and five resorts have not been approved by the Department of Tourism as they have not secured no-objection certificates from the Forest Department. Besides, there are four resorts under various stages of construction.

The sources pointed out that a no-objection certificate was mandatory only if entrepreneurs wished to seek a subsidy from the government for tourism promotion.

“But in view of growing opposition to the proliferation of resorts and hotels around national parks, entrepreneurs have realised that obtaining a no-objection certificate from the Forest Department was not only a cumbersome process but would also bring their operations under close scrutiny. Hence, the trend is not to seek a no-objection certificate from the Forest Department, forego the subsidy amount and obtain permission from the gram panchayat and the Revenue Department to complete the project,” the sources added.

Friction arises when permission is issued in the “grey areas”.

Even gram panchayats issue no-objection certificates for projects on land whose characteristic features may be reflective of forests, though that land may be demarcated as village land. Some of these resorts fall within the recognised wildlife corridors.

Private resorts build compound walls forcing animals to stray into neighbouring villages, escalating man-animal conflict.

While the Forest Department may claim the property to be illegal as it impedes wildlife movement, the project promoters furnish the permission issued by gram panchayats or the Revenue Department and approach courts for legal redressal.

Wildlife activists and non-governmental organisations have urged the revenue authorities to approach the Forest Department to ascertain the nature of the land before issuing no-objection certificates for new ventures on the fringes of Bandipur and other forests.

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