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Developments in Gopalaswamy temple area irk wildlife activists

R. Krishna Kumar
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The temple, situated in the core area of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, sees nearly 4,000 visitors during weekends. — Photo: M.A. SRIRAM
The temple, situated in the core area of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, sees nearly 4,000 visitors during weekends. — Photo: M.A. SRIRAM

Conservationists are peeved over the series of developments at the Himavad Gopalaswamy temple, which is situated in the core area of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and is inimical to wildlife.

They say that a high-capacity generator has been installed, which adds to pollution and is violating the law that prohibits “development works” in the tiger reserve.

They have also alleged that the construction of a new building has been going on in the temple quadrangle, while a community hall to conduct functions was also on the anvil.

However, Conservator of Forests Kantharaj, who is also the Director of Bandipur, said there are no new constructions. An old structure was demolished to pave way for a new one to house the temple chariot. Construction was taking place within the temple premises and hence was not a violation, he said.

Questioning the need for a diesel generator, the activists said permission was accorded by the Forest Department to visit the temple on all days, from 8.30 a.m. to 4. p.m. As everyone has to return by 4 p.m., the need for a generator and additional building infrastructure is questionable, they said. If such generators are installed in all 11 religious locations inside Bandipur, it would be a cacophony of noise that would add to the increasing human-wildlife conflict. Mr. Kantharaj, however, said the diesel generator had been seized by the Forest Department.

The activists said the increased number of mass marriages was attracting huge crowds within the tiger reserve. The temple, administered by the Muzrai Department, has to abide by the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and Environment Protection Act of 1986, since the area is within a tiger reserve, said the activists.

The temple is home to several endangered wildlife species such as tiger, leopard, elephant and gaur. But the temple and the precincts attract lots of tourists and is turning into a dump yard with plastic and other wastes, challenging the very existence of the tiger reserve, the activists added.

Mr. Kantharaj said they were aware of the increasing tourists to the temple and were trying to regulate it at the entry point, but in vain. However, the Forest Department was strictly adhering to the schedule, he added.

Nearly 4,000 people visit the temple atop Gopalaswamy Betta during weekends and the crowd increases during Dasara.

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