Board reportedly favours allowing agriculture between the contour +3 and the contour +5
The State Board of Wildlife's reported decision to allow agriculture in the sanctuary area between the contour +3 and the contour +five has come in for criticism. The resolution of the board pertaining to Kolleru was released to the media in Hyderabad by Minister for Forests Satrucharla Vijayarama Raju on Tuesday.
The issue kicked off a widespread debate in the Kolleru area on the fate of the wildlife sanctuary, drawing mixed reactions from the supporters and opponents. According to B.V. Seshagiri Rao, a birdwatcher from Bhimavaram, the State board's resolution would go against the very spirit of the recommendations of the P.A. Aziz Committee.
The seven-member committee, appointed by the government with Dr. P.A. Aziz, Director of the Salim Ali Centre of Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) as its Chairman, to decide on the size of the sanctuary, prefers to consider the area between the contour+3 and the contour+5 as `buffer area' under the full control of the Forest department, according to its 200-page report recently posted on the website of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The committee seeks to permit environmental activities in the buffer area with the involvement of an eco-management group.
In addition, the Aziz committee also proposes to create a “critical habitat” or the core area with a space within the contour+3 which will remain impermissible to `all activities' (involving human interference).
Patanjali Sastry, who embarked on a legal battle for protection of the sanctuary, said the State Board of Wildlife did not have any say or role to decide on the sanctuary as it was declared a Ramsar International Site. “It could only place its resolution before the National Board of Wildlife for a final decision”, Mr. Sastry added.
B. Balaram of the CPI(M)-affiliated Andhra Pradesh Rytu Sangham sees a `political motive' behind the decision of the State board.
He said the board had taken such decision allegedly under the influence of the State government as part of the ruling party's attempts to woo the electorate in Kolleru area in view of the fast-approaching elections to the local bodies.
The people in the lake falling under Krishna and West Godavari districts can decide the fortunes of political parties by virtue of their numerical strength spread over 10 mandals in the two districts.