Green activists oppose eco-tourism plans at Turahalli forests in City

Concerns over tourism vision group's proposal to develop limited patch

Green activists oppose eco-tourism plans at Turahalli forests in City

 The Turahalli forests in Bangalore are in news again, this time for eco-tourism. The Karnataka Tourism Vision Group (KTVG) wants access to this State forest to promote tourism. But conservationists oppose the idea, fearing it will lead to commercial exploitation of the patch.

The State and minor forests of Turahalli are spread across 514 acres and 597 acres, respectively, near Uttarahalli on Kanakapura Road.

Located just 25 km from Bannerghatta National Park, the dry deciduous and scrub forest patch is an elephant corridor connecting Bannerghatta, Savandurga, Magadi and Kengeri. It is inhabited by herbivores and carnivores (including nocturnal), such as leopards, jungle cats, wild dogs, spotted deer, hare, wild boars, common mongooses and Bonnet macaque.

KTVG co-chairman V Ravichandar said, “There is a proposal in the vision document for Turahalli to be developed as a tourism range, but in a limited area of the forest patch.

Permission from the Forest department is yet to be obtained. This is still in a concept stage and the modalities have not been finalised yet. But keeping conservation in mind, only a limited area would be utilised. Entry of visitors will be limited.”

According officials of the Forest department, there is only one proposal before them – from the Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR). They do not know of anything else.

“We are developing a tree park there by planting more trees of ficus species along with other local and fruit-bearing species. We are also building a boundary wall around the forest patch which connects to Bangalore to ensure there is no encroachment. No structures will be permitted inside the forest patch,” they explained.

Two years ago, the JLR had made a proposal to set up tent accommodations and provide eco-tourism activities such as rock climbing, trekking and canopy walks. This proposal is now being considered by the KTVG and the Forest department.

But conservationists are worried about commercialisation and want the forest patch protected from development and urbanisation.

In 2007-08, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) was keen to form a layout there, but the project was stalled. Besides, about 150 acres of land was given to farmers under the ‘Bagair Hukum’ scheme in late 1990s for cultivation. This was later added back to the forest after protests from green brigades.

Biodiversity expert from the Indian Institute of Science, Harish Bhat, said: “There is no harm if eco-tourism is being followed in its original concept. Otherwise, there will be a lot of damage to the area. Only 20 per cent of the area should be open to people; locals should be involved and local ethics considered. A study on carrying capacity should be conducted first to ascertain tourism and people-carrying capacity.”

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