Staff Correspondent

‘Protected area’ is nothing but the proposed Greater Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctuary Project

Madikeri: The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Karnataka, has written to the Principal Secretary, Forests, Environment and Ecology, that declaring the Western Ghats as protected area in Kodagu could be difficult owing to many reasons. The “protected area” is nothing but the Greater Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctuary Project proposed by certain environmental organisations in the district to the State Government during the S.M. Krishna government in 2003.

The letter could well put at rest the controversy created in Kodagu over the proposed formation of “Greater Talacauvery Wildilife Sanctuary” by bringing the Brahmagiri, Pushpagiri and Talacauvery wildlife sanctuaries under one contiguous area. It had drawn widespread reactions from political parties, elected representatives and organisations on one side and a few environmental groups on the other. The order of the PCCF on December 5, 2008, a copy which was received at the office of the Conservator of Forests, Kodagu Circle, here on December 10 , stated that declaring forest areas as “protected forests” would require demarking the buffer forest zones and eco-sensitive zones.

If this was done, it would reduce the geographical area of Kodagu district and hinder the development projects in the district. Permission would have to be obtained from the National Wildlife Board whenever development works would have to be taken up. Further, the issue could complicate the matters as the implementation of the “Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act” needed to be implemented in the district. Declaration of the protected area would mean that the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 would come into play automatically in which case the implementation of the ST Act would be rendered difficult.

Another significant point made was that there were private lands, “Jamma Malai” (forest areas given over to certain families for cardamom cultivation only by the former rulers of Kodagu) lands and others, whose ownership was yet to be determined.

In the event of declaring the forests as protected areas, problems would arise as there were 22 villages, one hamlet and 130 forest enclosures in the specified area.

The letter further stated that there was public opposition to the proposed project. The Conservator of Forests, Kodagu Circle, had suggested that before declaring the forests as Greater Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, the issue should be debated at public forums, gram panchayats, taluk panchayats and the zilla panchayat and opinions of MLAs and MLCs taken.

However, instead of declaring it as Greater Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctuary or protected area, it would be wise to declare it as a “biosphere reserve.” Conservator of Forests (Kodagu) G.A. Sudarshan, had written to the PCCF (Wildlife) on September 18, 2008 stating that the Principal Secretary, Forest, Environment and Ecology, in his letter to the PCCF (Wildlife) on August 19, 2003, had asked the official to prepare a comprehensive project to declare the Western Ghats of Kodagu as a biosphere reserve and to submit it to the UNESCO to stop collection of dead and fallen trees from the forest areas which connected the wildlife sanctuaries of Pushpagiri and Brahmagiri and Talcauvery and finally constitution of a National Park by combining the three wildlife sanctuaries and other forest areas connecting them.