The appearance of unauthorised sheds in Kongahalli, a village in the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, has shocked naturalists and environmentalists.

The sheds were constructed for the benefit of pilgrims visiting the Mallikarjuna Swamy temple. K. Mohan Raj of the Tamil Nadu Green Movement (TNGM) said five years ago there were only a few sheds. “Every year, the temple authorities as well as the local panchayats without obtaining permission from the Forest officials have constructed the sheds illegally. At present, there are 20 sheds,” he said.

S. Jayachandran of the TNGM said festivals are held at the temple at least twice a year when thousands of pilgrims throng the place. Every time, the festival lasts a week.

During such occasions, nearly two tonnes of garbage get dumped in the area.

Dumping of garbage inside a tiger reserve will have a negative impact on the wildlife population, he said.

Mr. Jayachandran pointed out that it is not merely dumping of garbage in the area but also lack of proper disposal that is posing a major threat to the ecosystem as well as the endangered wildlife. Pointing out the absence of toilet facilities, Mr Jayachandran said the pilgrims defecate in open, which would also spoil the environment.

Das Shetty, a local tea shop owner in Kongahalli, said during festivals, nearly 15,000 pilgrims arrive at Kongahalli. They stay for two days during the festival time, he added.

Forest Department sources said after the Sathyamangalam area was declared as a tiger reserve, no new structure has been allowed in Kongahalli. Most of the structures are more than five years old.

The department did not grant permission to the temple authorities for building sheds for the pilgrims. Instead, the existing structures could be used, the sources added.