Bandipur National Park declared eco-sensitive zone

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in its notification dated October 4, 2012, has declared Bandipur National Park as an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ).

With this, the park has the distinction of being the first tiger reserve in the country to be included in the ESZ.

Treated as “breathing spaces” for wildlife, ESZs are demarcated based on their ecological importance. They will restrict development activities inimical to wildlife and their habitats in the area.

The 912.04-sq km park is spread across Heggadedevanakote and Nanjangud taluks in Mysore district and Gundlupet taluk in Chamarajanagar district. It links other wildlife habitats such as Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarahole and Mudumalai Tiger Reserves, and the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve. These contiguous areas host the highest density of tigers, their prey species and Asian elephants in the world.

A draft notification to declare the park ESZ was issued in September 2011. However, residents of the villages in the park opposed the move. Of the 123 villages listed under the ESZ, 62 are in HD Kote taluk, 14 in Nanjangud, 41 in Gundlupet and four villages in Chamarajanagar taluk. The Forest and Revenue departments along with legislators and wildlife experts created awareness about the benefits of the zone and won over the residents. Later, the Forest department prepared a final report and submitted a proposal to the Union government.

No encroachment

Inclusion of the park in the zone will ban resorts and hotels, mining, quarry, stone crushing units, industries, hotels, sawmills, multi-purpose farming, horticulture, poultry and livestock rearing by companies and exploitation of groundwater for commercial purpose. A proposed hydel power project has been stalled in the area, which is now a plastic-free zone. As per the notification, the local communities can use the ESZ tag to protect their lands from being acquired for industries and similar activities. Agricultural activities in these villages will not be stopped. They will be encouraged to go for organic farming and rainwater conservation. The status will ensure that no restrictions are imposed on the existing legal land use pattern and the infrastructure.

As a next step, the State government will prepare a zonal master plan for restoration of denuded areas, conservation of existing water bodies, management of catchment areas, watershed management, groundwater management, soil and moisture conservation, needs of local community and such other aspects of the ecology and environment that need attention.

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