Controversy is brewing over an existing road in Bandipur Tiger Reserve with conservationists expressing fear that the proposed upgrading could prove to be inimical to wildlife in the region.
The road passes through the Moliyuru range of Bandipur and is part of the stretch from Hediyala to B. Matagere connecting Saraguru Road in H.D. Kote taluk.
The stretch linking Badagalapura to Baradaga is what cuts through Moliyuru range and has become a debating point. Even as the road is not being questioned as it is required for the locals, what is of concern is the suspected upgrading, including its widening.
However, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF-Wildlife) B.G. Hosmath, who visited the spot on Saturday, allayed the concerns. Mr. Hosmath said he had studied the issue fully and the right of way of the villagers was recognised when the final notification of the tiger reserve was issued in 2001.
“It is a 2.03-km stretch linking the village which entails maintenance… it is non-controversial and a minor issue is being blown out of proportion,” he said.
But a conservationist said the original document on what was recognised as ‘right of way’ has to be studied as it could even be a mud tract for carts and not a road.
Meanwhile, other officials said the work has been put on hold temporarily and there was no widening of the existing road. If it is to be upgraded, it will have to be placed before the State Board for Wildlife, National Board for Wildlife, and finally the National Tiger Conservation Authority for approval.
The road cutting through Moliyuru is in the Alagunchi Reserve Forest and the issue seems to have divided the conservationists as Honorary Wildlife Warden Naveen Kumar was in support of it.
He said road connectivity was a demand from the locals and a Government Order was issued in 2001 and there was nothing illegal about it.
“Conservation is about balancing the requirement of the people living in proximity to forests and wildlife… if we do not give them the road, it will be difficult to secure their cooperation on conservation issues,” he added.
But those suspecting that the project entails road widening and not mere maintenance cautioned that it will result in vehicles over-speeding which could prove deadly to the wildlife in the region.