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Karnataka: JLR may take over three nature camps in Kali Tiger Reserve

This move is being opposed by environmentalists and a section of forest department officials, who fear that the camps, which are currently catering to the educational needs of students, will be lost.
Last Updated : 24 December 2023, 20:27 IST

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Hubballi: Kali Tiger Reserve in Uttara Kannada district is set to lose its three nature camps - Kulgi, Anshi and Castle Rock - to Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) as the forest department is contemplating handing over them to the Tourism department to boost the camp’s footfall and revenue.

This move is being opposed by environmentalists and a section of forest department officials, who fear that the camps, which are currently catering to the educational needs of students, will be lost. 

The rooms, which are available for Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 per night, may become a privilege of “elites” after JLR takes over them. Naturalists cite the example of JLR’s properties at Kabini, Bandipur, where one has to shell out Rs 8,500 to Rs 15,200 per person per day.

The idea to shift the management of the three nature camps to JLR was mooted by Uttara Kannada district secretary Ritesh Kumar Singh, who recently visited the camps and found the maintenance poor and footfall low.

“Currently, the footfall at these camps is very poor. The premises are not properly maintained. JLR is a professional organisation that can draw more tourists to the place,” he said and gave the example of a similar camp in Mangaluru, which was handed over to the JLR and its tourists’ footfall increased by at least 20 times.

A senior officer at KTR, who did not wish to be named, said JLR already has two premium properties in the region. The nature camps at Anshi (inside the core area) and Kulgi are meant to create awareness among children through regular camps.

“Hundreds of students visit these camps every year to learn about biodiversity, ecology and other aspects of the forest. Generating money is not the only purpose of these camps,” said the officer. He also added that the revenue generated from the camps was used for eco-development activities, which may be impacted if the camps are handed over to JLR.

A local environmentalist, who also runs a resort in Dandeli, said, “Nature camps cater to the needs of nature lovers, researchers and wildlife photographers who cannot afford the premium stays at JLR. The forest department is not in the business of tourism, their purpose is conservation and creating awareness of forest. The nature camps at KTR are doing it. So, they should not be handed over to JLR for the sake of extra revenue,” he said.

Speaking to DH, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Head of Forest Force) Brijesh Kumar Dikshit said they have received a proposal in this regard and a final decision has not yet been taken.

“We are looking at both the pros and cons of handing over nature camps to JLR. Forest department officials are not professionally trained in managing tourism. JLR is a professional organisation of the government that has been handling tourists, and change in management can improve the potential of the camps,” he said.

Dikshit said every year the department gets Rs 20 crore from JLR through jungle safari and other means. A similar model can be worked in KTR also where a portion of the camps can be under the forest department for conducting educational camps and nature activities.

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Published 24 December 2023, 20:27 IST

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