Following the forest fires in Karnataka that ravaged hundreds of acres especially in the Nagarahole National Park, the Forest Department has got a modest grant of Rs. 20 crore in the State Budget to modernise and strengthen its infrastructure.
The grant will go towards “enhancing efficiency” in the Forest Department, and will include the purchase of modern fire fighting equipment, vehicles and GIS equipment. Last month, Nagarahole lost 600 hectares of forest according to official estimates, although wildlife activists have placed the loss at a much higher figure of a few thousand hectares.
The grant will also be used to train staff, for forest research and for computerisation (e-governance). A special focus has been given to the forests of the Western Ghats that are “rich in rare and diversified species of fauna and flora”. The Western Ghats Task Force, created to look at biodiversity, environment, water conservation, sacred groves and village forest committees, has been granted Rs. 4 crore.
In a bid to address the compounding human-elephant conflict in the State, Rs. 10 crore has been allocated to prevent wild elephants entering agricultural lands and human habitations through the construction of trenches and solar fences. The conflict is especially acute in Sakleshpur taluk in Hassan district where an elephant corridor has been proposed and 2,300 hectares of land slated to be acquired for the project.
To protect families in national parks and sanctuaries where conflict is particularly intense, Rs. 10 crore has been allocated for their relocation. The relocation work will first begin in Hassan this year. K.H. Nagaraj, Conservator of Forests, Hassan, said that 416 families live within the proposed elephant corridor in Sakleshpur. The government has also set a target of growing plantations in 70,000 hectares of land with an outlay of Rs. 180 crore. This will include raising 175 lakh seedlings to distribute among farmers and the public.