Fishermen and Forest Department officials at loggerheads

The Eco Tourism Centre (ETC) proposed by the Wildlife Division of the Forest Department in the plus five contour of the Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary near Madhavapuram hits a roadblock in view of strong opposition from the local fishermen. The stretch of 400 acres in the lake where the (ETC) is under progress has witnessed a showdown between the angry fishermen and the personnel from the Forest Department for the last few days.

The fishermen belonging to the Scheduled Castes allegedly assaulted the local Forest Range Officer B. Satyavenkataramana Prasad and damaged a watch tower under construction for the visitors to watch the winged guests of different sizes and in different hues. The protesters also reportedly damaged earthmovers engaged at the project site. A case under the section 353 of the IPC was registered against rioters numbering over 200 following a complaint by the victim. The Forest Department is planning to develop a bird conservation project at Madhavapuram on the lines of the one at Atapaka through the ETC. Certain migratory and resident birds such as pelicans, steels and sandpiper of the wader family were spotted at the particular place and the ETC intends to make it a major attraction for the visiting bird lovers.

The fishermen are apprehensive of the tourism project having an adverse impact on their habitat. The SC members from Jalipudi and Madhavapuram were making a living on fish farming in water spread over an area of 700 acres until the demolition of their ponds in the Operation Kolleru programme in 2006. Later, they were allegedly draining out water in the same area and indulging in fishing in violation of the rules of the Forest Department. The catch used to be sold as dry fish to be used as poultry feed in the post-Kolleru operation period. Demanding stalling of the project, a large number of people staged a demonstration at the Collectorate here on Tuesday.