Forest conservation is priority, but not at people's cost: Rai

Forest minister seeks cooperation of all stakeholders

Forest conservation is priority, but not at people's cost: Rai

Forest Minister B Ramanath Rai said the State government’s priority is conservation of forest and wildlife, but people’s interest will not be compromised.

He was speaking during the inaugural function of a workshop on ‘Human-Elephant Conflict and Restoration of Elephant Corridor and Home Range Through Private Initiatives or Community Reserves’ hereon Wednesday.

He said, the government has taken various steps to check man-animal conflict. However, they would yield results only when the stakeholders, like the residents of the villages on the fringes of forests, wildlife experts and others cooperate with the executing authorities, he added. 

Stating that tackling man-animal conflict is a big challenge in the State, he said, “We should be proud that there are nearly 6,000 elephants in our State and we have the highest tiger population. Besides measures taken by the Forest Department, the workshop is a step towards strengthening the efforts in involving the people. As the elephant corridors have been disrupted, they stray into human habitations in search of food and water. Steps have been taken to provide both food and water inside the forests. The fringes of the forests, where teakwood have been grown, have now been included under national parks. Teakwood is of no use to animals, but, teakwood trees cannot be touched, however, fruit-bearing trees would be grown to check the entry of elephants to villages and farmlands.”

He said, “We have inherited the forest from our ancestors and we need to conserve them for future generations. Conserving forests is safeguarding ourselves. So, conservation is both our right and responsibility.”

Rai said land would not be forcibly acquired for laying the elephant corridor. He said, “Once steps are taken to reduce man-animal conflict, we have to look into co-existence as wild animals also have equal rights on earth. Once, man lived in caves and other animals roamed about freely. But unfortunately, now man has occupied all available space on earth and animals have to be restricted.Fortunately nowadays, people are aware of animal rights and speak for conservation.”

Earlier, he inaugurated new facilities, provided at a total cost of Rs 4.75 crore under various heads, at Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens,for the benefit of both visitors and animals.

Whatsapp obsession

Rai seems to be obsessed with Whatsapp videos. While advocating for conservation of forests and wildlife, he gave example of two videos he received from his Whatsapp contacts.

The first one, he said, is of a man who was confined in an enclosure with 30 lions. “Man is never lion’s food. It attacks man only out of fear. The man caresses the lions and they reciprocate,” he said.

“In the second video, a woman, who had kept a lion for years, meets it after a long time. She had to give it to a zoo as individuals cannot keep wild animals as per law. The lion expresses its love for its guardian when they meet again,” Rai said.

‘Hidden agenda’

Reacting to media queries on moral policing, he said, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar are responsible for moral policing. “Moral policing, especially in the costal districts, is on the rise and it is the hidden agenda of the Sangh Parivar,” he added.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Vinay Luthra, PCCF Ravi Ralf, APCCF R Uday Kumar and CCF B M Parameshwar were present on the occasion.

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