Stink of violations in Forest dept's 'Gandhadagudi' plan

Area selected for project is near tank that quenches animals thirst

The State government’s initiative to restore the glory of ‘Gandhadagudi’ (abode of sandalwood) in the State through its ‘Siri Chandanavana’ project does not seem to be in order.

While initiating the project, it has violated the norms for sanctuaries and national parks, which ban the felling of trees and clearing the forest.

Interestingly, sandalwood tree being a root parasite, it does not require clearing of trees or bush.

It emerges that the Forest department violated the norms and took to massive clearing of natural forests and bushes in the Bandipur tiger reserve for the purpose.

Strangely, the tiger reserve staff, who are responsible for the protection of the reserve, have been kept off.

The department sources, confirming this, said that an area of 250 acres of natural forests had been cleared.

“The felling is happening in the Gundlupet region close to the Gopalaswamy Hills, which forms part of the tiger reserve. Fencing of the region has already begun,” said a source.

Interestingly, the area selected is next to the Hirikere tank, an extremely crucial source of water for elephants, tigers and several other animals in the area. The adjoining forest area has steep hillocks and animals have to cross these hillocks, if they want to reach other water sources.

“Even the territorial forest division has no authority to carry out its activities of felling and planting trees inside a tiger reserve. They have an area earmarked for this purpose in the division,” said a source.

Sandalwood, being a root parasite, does not need trees or bushes to be cleared and the motive to clear the forests for its cultivation is leading to several suspicions. According to local wildlife enthusiasts, work began a week ago and 10 naturally grown trees have been felled.

Bushes have also been cleared and concrete slabs measuring about 2.5 meter have been placed for a distance of about 2.2 km. 

“This clearly indicates how the forest department is careless about the management of wildlife habitats. The lack of understanding of the importance of wildlife habitats is making the m inaccessible for animals, due to the fencing. This will not only affect the movement of large animals such as elephants - which will now have to use alternative routes including agricultural fields. All this will definitely aggravate the man-animal conflict,” said an expert.

The department’s move is also a violation of the 1995 Supreme Court directions which restrain removal of dead or fallen trees or branches or any kind of felling in national parks, tiger reserve or wildlife sanctuaries.  
  
It may be recalled that Forest Minister C P Yogeeshwara had recently said that the State had identified land belonging to the department to develop mini-forests in all districts to overcome the shortage of sandalwood for the production of oil.

Noting that plantation had already begun, he had said that two patches of land had been earmarked for the purpose.

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