Wildlife laws ignored for religious event at Bandipur

Ex-CMs, ministers, legislators to take part in jatra at tiger reserve

Lakhs of devotees are expected to throng the tiger reserve at the Bandipur National Park during the 108 shiv ling pratishtapana mahotsava and jathra on Monday at Mahadeshwara temple in Beladakuppe.

Threat to wildlife: Hundreds of people thronged the Beladakuppe Mahadeshwara temple in Bandipur for the Karthikamasa Utsav last November. DH Photo

Former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa is scheduled to inaugurate the foundation-laying ceremony for the shiv ling temple which is being constructed in the prohibited area. District in-charge minister S A Ramdas will lay foundation stone for the Mahadeshwara Swami temple, which is a violation of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Forest Minister C P Yogeeshwar, former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, MLA Chikkanna, Opposition Leader Siddaramaiah, Housing Minister V Somanna, pontiffs of various mutts are expected to witness the “illegal” act.

The safe haven for the big cats is facing a threat due to religious programmes which begin in the ‘karthik masa’ in November.

Over a lakh people from various parts of Chamarajnagar district visited the forest in November last year to make their offerings to Beladakuppe Mahadeshwara.

Hundreds of trees were felled to make way for vehicles, through Aralahalli, Bankahalli, Marigudi and Baragi - all prohibited areas.

Though trespassing the reserve forest is prohibited under Section 27 of the Act, hundreds of vehicles plied during the religious events.
 
Tranquility disturbed

Two blaring generators, entertainment programmes like ‘harikatha’ and bhajans, disturbed the tranquillity of the forest, though they are prohibited by the Wildlife Protection Act.

The Bandipur National Park, which has also the best tiger density in the country, and a good number of elephants, has been encroached upon by over 10 temples. Local elected representatives supporting the events to mobilise votes turn the area into a hub of commercial activities during religious programmes every year. Stalls and hotels crowd the forest area where agriculture implements are displayed and cattle are sold.

The short-staffed Forest department says it is helpless in averting the threat to wildlife.
Ashwin N Gurushrikar, convenor of Growing Wild, an NGO, said the elected representatives and the officials lacked the sensitivity and awareness that former prime minister Indira Gandhi and the then forest officials exhibited in conserving the forest area in the 1980s.

During Indira Gandhi’s visit to the BNP, the district administration had planned to cut down trees for constructing a helipad.

But the then field director of the Tiger Reserve, Deshmukh, opposed the move. When the authorities did not heed, he wrote to Indira Gandhi who directed the district administration to drop the plan, Ashwin said.

“Now, devotion is commercialised with an eye on the vote bank. And organising such events in an ostentatious manner has only endangered wildlife,” he said.

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