The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has recommended shifting the annual temple fair that takes place inside the core area of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, to outside as a permanent solution in the larger interest of wildlife conservation.
The NTCA has taken note of the annual Beladakuppe Sri Mahadeshwaraswamy Temple jathra that draws thousands of people every year causing disturbance to wildlife. This year, the annual jathra will be held in the second week of December with a slew of religious rites planned on December 10, 11 and 12.
Though the forest department has issued routine guidelines including restrictions on the entry of private vehicles, it often flouted by the local community.
This year, too, a meeting was held between the forest department personnel and the temple trust members. The authorities stated that devotees can visit the temple only for regular prayers and rituals using the KSRTC buses that will be deployed specially for the purpose.
But all other activities, including cultural programmes, are to be conducted outside the core area. However, a member of the local village temple committee said though such restrictions are imposed every year, as the number of devotees swell it becomes difficult to regulate the crowd and people enter the core area on their private vehicles.
The NTCA’s recommendations to shift the fair outside the core area follows a complaint by conservation activist Giridhar Kulkarni, who pointed out that the issue was fraught with danger for both humans and wildlife and could escalate conflict situation.
Shifting fair outside core area
Harini Venugopal, Assistant Inspector General of Forests, who paid a visit to the site recently, submitted a report stating that the annual fair may be regulated by slowly phasing out most of the rituals to outside the tiger reserve without affecting the religious sentiments of the local people.
The report said shifting the entire fair to outside the core area was in the long-term interest of forest and wildlife so as to reduce disturbance to animal movement, prevent habitat loss as well as the spread of diseases.
The negative impact of the annual fair were accentuated by the use of generators, lights and sound system with amplifiers. Besides, the leftovers of cooked food could attract animals and impact their dietary habits besides forcing them to enter human landscape in search of food, escalating the conflict situation.
Regular movement of devotees
Mr. Kulkarni pointed out that the disturbance was not during the annual fair alone but there was a regular movement of devotees to the temple. On non-jathra days, entry is restricted to twice a week — Mondays and Fridays — and on an average, close to 300 people visit the temple through the year. These numbers escalate to thousands during jathras and Amavasya days, he added.
The NTCA directives to shift the fair assumes significance in the light of the death of a woman who was killed in a tiger attack, also in the Hediyala range of the BNP.