Forest dept puts on hold safari plan at Nugu sanctuary

Forest dept puts on hold safari plan at Nugu sanctuary

The Karnataka Forest Department has put on hold its ambitious plan to roll out ‘jungle safari’ in the pristine Nugu wildlife range in the buffer area of Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR) from October-end, following a bitter backlash from the conservationists and confusion over the guidelines by the Supreme Court on tourism activities in tiger reserves.

Beckoning tourists, the department had published about the commencement of safari activities in the Nugu range in HD Kote of Mysuru District a few days ago by listing out the timings and fees for Safari activities. The BTR officials had submitted a proposal to the Forest department a few months ago about launching a safari in the Nugu range.

However, with just three days left for the launch of tourism activities, which drew flak from conservationists and officials, the Forest department decided to put the plan on hold in the last minute.

Confirming the decision T Balachandra, Director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, told DH that the plan had been put on hold. “The department wanted certain clarification and there was confusion whether we need NTCA approval or not. They had even sought a copy of the approved management plan for allowing tourism activities in the range. We have sent all the details and for the time being, the proposal has been put on hold,” he said.

A former PCCF (Wildlife) of Forest department said, “Nugu range is part of the notified buffer zone and eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of BTR since 2010 and 2012. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had also submitted the same to the Supreme Court which had ordered a blanket ban on tiger tourism across the country. How can the department turn a blind eye to these developments?”

Yet another officer of Indian Forest Service, who had previously served at Bandipur, said “Opening one more area for tourism in Bandipur goes against a decision by the district minister who’s against scaling up tourism around Bandipur. Also, this would only pave way for more tourism activities that are prohibited in ESZ area.”

However, defending the decision, a forest official said, “As per the Supreme Court order, tourism activities are limited to 10% of the Tiger Reserve area. Going by the directions, at Bandipur, we can operate safari in 102 sqkm area. But currently, we are operating only in 80 sqkm area and there is scope to scale this up in another 20 sqkm area.”