Two recent developments at Bandipur augur well for conservation of wildlife and forest protection activities. For a national park of importance given its rich density of tigers and elephants and other species, it was imperative to reduce anthropogenic pressure on the habitat so as to help wildlife retrieve the lost space.
And a major step in this direction was taken when the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) notified an Eco- Sensitive Zone around Bandipur in October to provide the much needed breathing space for wildlife. This made Bandipur, which is an important tiger reserve, the first national park in the country to have an ESZ declared around it. The ESZ is spread over 479.18 sq km covering 123 villages spread across Gundlupet, Chamarajanagar, H.D.Kote and Nanjangud taluks and the MoEF notification also provides for a zonal master plan for restoration of denuded areas, conservation of existing water bodies, management of catchment areas, watershed and groundwater management, and soil and moisture conservation while paying attention to the needs of the local community.
The objective of the ESZ, as mentioned earlier, is not only to reduce human intrusion but ensure that the existing land use patterns are compatible with the local needs and is expected to curb the growth of tourist resorts, mining activities, industries and other developments that are at odds and variance with the needs of wildlife.
Though there were apprehensions that the declaration of ESZ would result in eviction, these fears were misplaced and these zones are reckoned to be compatible with the economic activities and livelihood of local people.
An important outcome of declaring the ESZ is that the wildlife corridors will be relatively free of disturbance and this will help in the free movement of animals.
As Sanjay Gubbi, conservation biologist, pointed out, the ESZ assumes importance since Bandipur is in a very crucial part of the tiger conservation landscape connecting other wildlife habitats such as the Nagarahole and Mudumalai Tiger Reserves and Waynad Wildlife Sanctuary.
These contiguous areas host the highest density of tigers, their prey species and Asian elephants in the world.
The declaration of ESZ was the culmination of a long process and was initially mandated under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and a Supreme Court order in WP No. 460/2004, said Mr. Gubbi. The initial draft proposal was placed before the public, consultations were held with the local community and the elected representatives and the final notification was issued in October, 2012. The boundaries of the ESZ was a fallout of an extensive analysis of wildlife corridors and ecologically important areas from both wildlife and human perspective and hence there are no restrictions on agriculture, livestock rearing etc., for the local community. But there are cannot be commercial breeding of livestock in the vicinity nor residential areas converted for commercial use to establish resorts and hence the land use pattern will be compatible with wildlife and forest conservation.
The second development is a small initiative of significant importance and an example of private-public cooperation on conservation issues.
For, an eco-friendly anti-poaching camp unit has been established at Avarepura in the Moleyur forest range of Bandipur which has been billed as the first such anti-poaching camp in the entire country.
The project, titled Aranyaka, is unique as the camp is eco-friendly as renewable energy and sustainable technologies are its built-in features.
It is a joint initiative of the Wildlife Conservation Trust, Mumbai; Tiger Conservation Foundation, Bandipur; Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Techologies (CREST) at the National Institute of Engineering, Mysore; and Voice for Wildlife Trust, Mysore.
S. Shamsundar, Director, CREST, pointed out that the stabilised mud blocks were prepared at the site using locally available soil and they are not burnt bricks entailing the use of firewood, but are sun-cured for three weeks.
While embellishing the aesthetics, these materials also provide thermal comfort for the inmates.
The incorporation of a rainwater harvesting system is reckoned to be important as it can harvest around 40,000 litres of water every year that is usable for seven to eight months in a year. Solar lighting enables the anti-poaching staff to recharge their mobile units and walkie-talkies while biomass stoves ensures greater thermal efficiency in cooking, thus paving way for a smoke-free environment.
R. Krishna Kumar