Bandipur Park declared ecologically sensitive area

Proposal soon seeking the tag for Nagarahole protected forest

According to the guidelines of the National Wildlife Board, all national parks and protected forests should be declared as ‘Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs).’ The process is being delayed due to some vested interests and lack of awareness on the part of villagers in the vicinity, a senior Forest officer told Deccan Herald.

Chief Conservator of Forests, B J Hosmath, who is also the director of Project Tiger had submitted a proposal to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests seeking ESA tag for Bandipur Park in June this year.

The Ministry has accepted the proposal and a gazette publication needs to be issued to finalise the process. Sources said the office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests has been intimated of the acceptance of the proposal.

Goa Foundation, a voluntary organisation involved in forest and wildlife conservation had moved the Supreme Court in 2004 urging that all protected forests in the country should be declared as ecologically sensitive areas. 

The apex court in its verdict in December 2006 had said all states and union territories should declare protected forests in respective jurisdictions as ecologically sensitive, with a view to conserve the forest and wildlife.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests framed some guidelines on the matter and asked all the states to submit proposals seeking ESA tag for all protected forests. While Haryana, Gujarat, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam and Goa states responded positively, some other states including Karnataka kept quite. The National Wildelife Board infused fresh life into the issue by re-formulating some guidelines only after which the State Government sought the tag for Bandipur park. Bandipur has already been declared a protected area and questions have arisen over the implication of the ESA tag on resorts and nearby villages.

According to Sanjay Gubbi, a wildlife expert, the resorts already set up wouldn’t be disturbed though the establishment of new resorts or industries or granite quarrying in the vicinity would be strictly regulated.

“The ESA tag won’t affect residents of nearby villages in any way. There is a misconception among the public on the issue,” he said.

According to the earlier guidelines, any human activity in the 10-km radius of ESAs was banned.  However, considering the difference in human activities from place to place, they could be permitted in a radius of up to two km, under the revised guidelines.

Nagarahole next in line

Meanwhile, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests B K Singh has said that a proposal would soon be submitted seeking ESA tag for Nagarahole protected forest. He said the Forest department would take steps to dispel the misconception on the ESA status among the
public.

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