Reserve or sanctuary? Label decides Kappatagudda future

Reserve or sanctuary? Label decides Kappatagudda future

If it's designated a sanctuary, it stands a better chance in the long run

Reserve or sanctuary? Label decides Kappatagudda future

 The state government, which had decided to declare Kappatagudda a wildlife sanctuary, now wants to call it just a conservation reserve. A wildlife sanctuary enjoys more protection. It is relatively easy to change land use in a reserve, and that's something that worries conservationists.

The National Board for Wildlife in Delhi will have to be approached for permission for anything to do with a wildlife sanctuary, and that serves as a deterrent to those who want to run resorts and such other businesses.

Kappatagudda, in Gadag district of northern Karnataka, was to become a wildlife sanctuary in 2013, but things took a curious turn later. “Public meetings were held to declare Kappatagudda a wildlife sanctuary, and not a conservation reserve,” a forest official said.

In 2013, then Wildlife Board chairman, Anil Kumble (coach of Indian cricket team), had held a series of meetings. The board had formed a sub-committee comprising board members and forest officials to hold a public consultation on February 21, 2013, in Dambala, Gadag.

 At the meeting on March 15 that year, the Wildlife Board decided to seek the status of wildlife sanctuary for Kappatagudda. But the state government ignored the signed resolution. On December 19, 2015, it issued an order declaring Kappatagudda a conservation reserve.

“In March 2013, elections were declared and the papers were not signed. Kappatagudda was forgotten and not discussed in any government meeting or wildlife board meeting,” a forest official told DH.

The December 2015 decision was based on the recommendation of an assistant conservator of forests. “That was how it came to be declared a conservation reserve,” the official recalled.  After a Wildlife Board meeting this month, the forest department is pushing back, again seeking the tag of wildlife sanctuary for Kappatagudda. Forest Minister Ramanath Rai has been non-committal, and the final decision now rests with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

Rich in biodiversity

Kappatagudda, spread across 401.811 hectares, is rich in biodiversity, especially medicinal plants and minor nocturnal animals. The Karnataka Medicinal Plant Board is assessing its biodiversity. The National Ayurveda Dietetics Research Institute has prepared a data pool of ayurvedic and medicinal plants of the region.

As Kappatagudda is rich in minerals, it also faces the threat of mining. A wildlife sanctuary typically comprises areas already notified as reserved forest. Conservation reserves, on the other hand, include areas adjacent to habitats and are governed by less stringent rules. Section 26A of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 empowers the state government to straightaway issue a final notification. Community leaders and local people continue to enjoy all existing rights even after an area is notified as a sanctuary.