Moily's letter to delay extension of Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary

The inclusion of more reserved forest areas into the existing Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary is already likely to be delayed due to local protests.

Rubbing salt into the wounds, Moily’s letter has not only created confusion, but has also enraged wildlife enthusiasts and experts who suspect it might be the handiwork of timber and mini hydel power mafia.

The letter dated October 7, 2011, sent to Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, has sought to reconsider inclusion of 455.96 sq kms of land in Shiradi, Uppinangady and Subramanya with the Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary.

Citing a letter from D Veerandra Heggade from Dharmastala, Moily’s letter states that ‘inhabitants’ are in the fear of losing their ‘agricultural land.’ Prabath Tyagi, Joint Director, Wildlife, has forwarded this letter to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Wildlife Warden seeking information to convey it to the Union minister. This has surprised wildlife experts as they say the department is well aware that it is including only already declared reserve forests into the sanctuary.

“The proposal involves inclusion of notified reserved forests only. These are pristine evergreen forests containing globally threatened and species endemic to the Western Ghats. Even though the well-conceived proposal does not envisage acquisition of any private land, it is extremely unfortunate that some political leaders are actively opposing this either due to pressure from an intricate web of vested interests or complete lack of scientific temper, “ says Praveen Bhargav, trustee, Wildlife Trust, a City-based organisation.

The Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary was notified in 1987 by adding 102.92 sq kms area. The department now proposes to add 536.37 sq kms to the existing sanctuary which, according to the experts, will be helpful to the newly declared tiger reserve at Kudremukha. “This will ensure a contiguous forest habitat and will help conservation of tiger by taking care of the spill over population from the region,” says Harish Bhat, a biodiversity expert from Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science.

The department has proposed to include all those reserve forests which were notified in 1900s (see box) and has clearly stated that the rights of the locals will not be affected.
Moily’s letter raises several suspicions as the declaration itself categorically states that rights of the locals will not be affected. Wildlife enthusiasts suspecting the role of timber and mini hydel project mafia –– at least a dozen hydel projects exist here either awaiting clearance or in operation –– say that nearly 90 per cent of the proposed forest land will be left unprotected endangering the Western Ghats and the purpose of the sanctuary will be defeated if Moily’s letter is considered.

The region is rich with flora and fauna. The Bisile elephant corridor is a part of Mysore Elephant Reserve. Large mammals like tiger, gaur, sambar are found in plenty. Wellknown primatologist H N Kumara has identified several arboreals like brown palm civet, lion tailed macaque, travancore flying squirrel, malabar slender lorris and niligiri martin, the indicators of evergreen forests, along with deep-wooded birds like ceylon frog mouths, great pied hornbill and malabar pied hornbill are sighted here.

Travancore care turtle, a fresh water turtle, an indicator of evergreen forest and brown mangoose are also sighted.

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