'Illegal' JLR resort in BR Hills raises greens' hackles

'Illegal' JLR resort in BR Hills raises greens' hackles

Running ‘illegal’ resorts in Tiger Reserves in violation of the Supreme Court order is no longer the preserve of private companies alone, it appears.

Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR), a government-owned company, runs a resort in the heart of Biligiriranganath- aswamy Temple (BR) Hills, a key tiger reserve, in violation of an apex court order, earning the wrath of environmentalists.

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices A K Patnaik and Swatantra Kumar, had in a landmark judgment on October 16, 2012, banned tourism activities in the core zones of Tiger Reserves. The court had delivered the order on a special leave petition between the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the others.

The NTCA has framed guidelines on tourism in tiger reserves, following the court order. The guidelines state that steps should be taken to ensure that the forests and wildlife are not harmed due to the tourism activities. Tourism activities will have to be shifted to the tourism zone.

Following these developments, the then Forest Minister C P Yogeeshwara had said a meeting in Bangalore that government guesthouses in the reserve forests where elephants and tigers are in huge numbers would be closed.

Following an RTI application by Raghuram R of Gundlupet, information was given to him by the Director of Project Tiger of the BR Hills Tiger Reserve on February 1, 2013, that a revenue of Rs 3.09 lakh was generated through the safari in November 2012. An amount of Rs 2.09 lakh was remitted to the Forest department from the K Gudi JLR safari in November, the RTI reply said.

Deccan Herald is in possession of a copy of the NTCA guidelines and receipt of the money remitted by JLR. The BR Hills is the most important habitat in the country for tigers and elephants. The reserve is a crucial link between the Bandipur, Nagarahole and the Satyamangalam forests. This being the case, conduct of tourism activities by JLR, a semi-government body, has caused concern among environmentalists. Director of Project Tiger of the BRT Hills Tiger Reserve could not be contacted on the phone.

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