This is one classic example of how concerted efforts by government officials and civil society can make a difference to conservation.
Sustained pursuance of the case by a few bureaucrats and wildlife activists has ensured that revenue land, over 5,000 acres, falling in a critical wildlife corridor at Kaniyanapura is declared a reserve forest. The efforts bring to an end the two-decade old issue of protecting the Kaniyanapura elephant corridor - which links Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
Kaushik Mukherjee, former additional chief secretary, B J Hosmath, field director, Project Tiger, Sanjay Gubbi, member, State Board for Wildlife, Basavaraju, assistant commissioner, Kollegal and Manjunath, tahsildar, Gundlupet have together got thousands of acres of revenue land, which had features of forest, declared reserve forest.
“A notification under Section 4 of Karnataka Forest Act has been issued with an intention to provide legal status to this forest patch,” Kumar Pushkar, Chief Conservator of Forests, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, told Deccan Herald. The notification - dated February 2, 2012 - grants reserve forest status to more than 5,000 acres of revenue land to ensure their protection.
Pushkar said the corridor was very important as far as wildlife protection is concerned as almost all animals, including tiger and elephant, use this stretch for their movement. He said declaring such a huge stretch of land as reserve forest was not an easy task. Not doing so would have been a great loss to wildlife as the notified area binds north and south ears of the corridor, he said.
“This area had become a hub of numerous activities. We would have lost the habitat. By declaring it reserve forest, we have secured it for wildlife,” he said.
“This is the patch which connects Biligirirangana Hills Tiger Reserve and Satyamangala forest with Nagarhole and Bandipur,” he added.
The revenue land falling in the limits of Chikyelchetti, Bachalli, Kebbepura, Kaniyanpura, Mangala, Yeriyur, Heggavadi and Kundukere villages have forests that connected the two important protected areas within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
“Despite a Supreme Court order that land with characteristics of forests should not be diverted for non-forestry activities without proper permissions, several resorts and private farms had come up here. Many of them were illegal and had reduced the corridor to a chicken neck in some locations,” explained a wildlife expert who has conducted a study of this corridor.
Sanjay Gubbi conducted a quick survey of the area with the help of volunteers from Vanya and Aranya wildlife groups in 2011. An area of 9,662.3 acres was found to have forest cover and a report was submitted to the government recommending that these areas be declared reserved forest.
Finding that an area of 5,599.05 acres was not diverted to private use, the department officials made a proposal to the government to declare it reserved forest under the Karnataka Forest Act, 1963. This finally led to the notification declaring the area as reserve forest.