Forest officials seek okay to demolish resort, house

Forest officials seek okay to demolish resort, house

Forest officials seek okay to demolish resort, house

 Forest staff have taken another step towards demolishing a sprawling property at a wildlife sanctuary near here.

The property violates buffer norms at Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, a two-hour drive from Bengaluru.

Woodies, a resort and gated community, was planned on 100 acres near the sanctuary in Chamarajanagar district, a rich forest area governed by the Centre’s Department of Environment and Forests. The sanctuary is spread across three districts: Ramanagaram, Mandya and Chamarajanagar.

After the property caught the attention of the media and officials, owners sought conversion of just 2.5 acres for non-agricultural use. This is in Survey 367 of Pallya hobli, and they submitted the application in October 2016. In fact, the villa project was advertised widely in 2015 and 2016, but the promoters later removed all details from the Internet.

“They had started building a gated community with 15,000 villa sites and an organic farm. They then changed the plan and built a resort with an amphi-theatre, swimming pool, basketball court, stadium and club house,” a forest official said.

The promoters are now telling the government they just want to have a house there.
The forest authorities have written to the additional chief secretary of Karnataka's forest and environment department, seeking permission to demolish the property and recover the land. The construction violates the 100-metre buffer zone norm, they told DH.

Who is behind it?

According to RTI information obtained by Shankar, a conservationist who lives near the sanctuary, the property is owned by Arunachalam, and is registered in the name of his wife A R Mariyamma.

Suresh Gowda, Deputy Commissioner of Chamarajanagar, has received their application for land conversion. In turn, he has sought details from forest and revenue officials.

Ramesh Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, said the department had written to the promoters in 2015, but had received no reply.

“We had stopped work on the resort and gated community. Later we learnt they had completed construction and were seeking land conversion to legalise the construction,” he said.

Consent from the Forest Department is required for land conversion. "We will not give any permission,” he said.

Forest staff at the sanctuary are agitated: they recently faced hostility from people living in the vicinity. “They were incited by a politician,” an official said.

On March 16, forest staff had shot down a poacher in the sanctuary in the middle of the night. Two days later, they arrested another poacher.

Already demolished

The authorities have removed a clubhouse, swimming pool and stadium, but a building 60 metres high remains in the buffer zone.

The compound wall is just two metres from the sanctuary. The law mandates a buffer of 100 metres.