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Greens sore over nod for 65 4G towers in Kali tiger reserve

The environmentalists, however, question the need for the approval of 4G BSNL towers inside the protected area as it violates the January 2024 guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Last Updated : 17 April 2024, 20:16 IST
Last Updated : 17 April 2024, 20:16 IST

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Hubballi: The ‘recommendation’ by Kali Tiger Reserve (KTR) officials to set up 65 mobile towers within the protected areas, including a few in the core and buffer area, has come under severe criticism from environmentalists and former forest department officials.

Of the total 65, the chief wildlife warden, State Board for Wild Life and State government had requested the standing committee for National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) for approval of 14 towers within the limits of Kali Tiger Reserve in Uttara Kannada district. However, the NBWL, in its 76th meeting held in January, rejected 11 proposals that were in the core areas and approved three towers in the buffer zone, with several conditions.

According to the documents available with the DH, even the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had recommended the 14 proposals though 11 of the towers were in the core areas of the fragile and highly sensitive tiger reserve, which is witnessing fragmentation due to setting up of resorts, homestays and encroachments.    

State-owned BSNL is planning to install these 40-metre tall towers that would provide 4G connectivity. Each tower would need 0.2 hectares (or 2,000 sqmt) of forest land for installation. The forest officials have, so far, not estimated the total number of trees that would be cut for this purpose.

The environmentalists, however, question the need for the approval of 4G BSNL towers inside the protected area as it violates the January 2024 guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The ministry issued the guidelines after it started receiving a large number of applications seeking approval for setting up 4G connectivity towers and laying optical fibre cables inside the national parks, sanctuaries, tiger reserves and corridors.

The bigger fear among the environmentalists is that the approval for 4G towers could hamper the rehabilitation work that KTR has so far conducted successfully.


Documents show that officials have approved towers near hamlets that had recently seen several residents voluntarily moving out of the tiger reserve. 

An officer, who was earlier involved in rehabilitation work, said convincing people to rehabilitate is very difficult and this decision of the department can jeopardise future rehabilitation works.

Wildlife Conversationalist Giridhar Kulkarni said: “The stand, taken by the NTCA to recommend 4G projects in Kalabhavi and Karanjoida, just on the basis that these areas are buffer areas of Kali Tiger Reserve is completely illogical and I strongly condemn this. On one side the NTCA encourages rehabilitation and on the other hand, the same authority recommends 4G towers in areas where rehabilitation is in progress, solely on the basis that these are buffer areas which is contradictory.”

He said the buffer area notification of Kali Tiger Reserve is “incorrect” as the protected areas of Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary and Anshi National Park have been notified as buffer areas of Kali which is impermissible as per the Wildlife Protection Act that specifically prohibits notifying sanctuaries and national parks as a buffer.


“Buffer areas have a lesser degree of protection compared to core,” he says.

Sources in KTR also fear that like in the past, these BSNL towers may soon be used by private players to provide “better connectivity” by paying rent to BSNL. Getting permission for private players in protected areas is comparatively difficult.  

Speaking to DH, KTR Field Director Nilesh Shinde said the state-owned BSNL submitted a proposal to set up towers. “After conducting a spot inspection and as per the rules, we recommended the proposal,” he said.  

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Published 17 April 2024, 20:16 IST

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