A visit to Kawal Tiger Reserve in erstwhile composite Adilabad district will certainly have you wondering if the government is committed to making the place safer for big cats and other wild animals or for timber smugglers and forest encroachers.
Interference of ruling party politicians has once again resulted in demoralisation of the protection force which looks incapable of controlling encroachments in KTR core area which is supposed to be a highly protected haven.
The worst cases of encroachments can be seen by the side of the main road connecting Nirmal and Mancherial all along between Khanapur cross roads and Peddur village, close to the left canal of Kadem project near Pandavapur in Kadem Forest Range, between Allampalli and Dharmajipet in Udumpur Range, on the Jendaguda country path in Danthanpalli of Birsaipet Range.
Also rampant is sand smuggling from Chikmanvagu in Domdari in Pembi Range and local streams in Birsaipet Range, thanks to political protection given to unscrupulous smugglers from Utnoor and Ichoda.
Some 10 days ago, when KTR officials tried to dissuade some local farmers from expanding their fields by illegally felling trees on the fringes, a ruling party leader from Utnoor brought pressure on them not to ‘harass’ the encroachers. As per his ‘directions’ the forest staff just burnt an illegal fishing net set up around the perimeter of the existing field.
The beginning of summer has farmers inside the core area of KTR start their operations to expand the area of their existing fields by chopping off trees found near the fringes. The modus operandi is to girdle the targeted trees close to the base which will have them drying up and dying in a few weeks.
“The dead trees are burnt as soon as they dry up so that the area is cleared and added to the existing field by the start of sowing in June. Hundreds of hectares have already been lost in the core area of KTR notwithstanding the status as a tiger reserve bestowed upon it in 2012,” lamented a Forest official as he talked about the current state of affairs, on conditions of anonymity.
Nirmal District Forest Officer, K. Damodar Reddy, assured to get the instances of fresh encroachments checked and curbed.