Forest dept to revisit proposal on pvt conservancies

Forest dept to revisit proposal on pvt conservancies

Voices were raised against the Forest department’s proposal to introduce private conservancies in Karnataka, at a meeting held here on Monday.

The department has proposed private conservancies(PCs) to encourage private land holders to associate themselves with the department in forming PCs for restoring biological corridors, saving wildlife species, to enable co-existence and reduce conflict.

The ambitious proposal of the department received a thumbs down from many quarters at the meeting. Retired and serving IFS officers cited legal hurdles and tourism exploitation as the main reasons for their opposition, even though some of the conservationists supported the move stating that it would check the man-animal conflict.

Caught in the pincers, the Forest department is mulling over taking a re-look and, re-draft the proposal before seeking the state government’s approval.

Retired Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Ravi Ralph said the idea of community reserves would be a better option than PCs and, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 recognises it. “If the objective of the department is wildlife conservation, then there is a need to change the PCs’ preamble,” he opined.

Another retired PCCF Avani Kumar Varma added that there is already a provision for tourism and research under the Wildlife Protection Act and there is no need for additional areas in the guise of PCs.

Dipak Sarmah, also a retired PCCF, questioned the legality of PCs’ formation. He urged the department to take the opinion of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) as Karnataka has tiger reserves. Opinion of Ministry of Environment and Forests is also required on eco-sensitive zones and eco-tourism in such places.

“When the department is aware of encroached lands and the idea of PCs is to increase forest cover, why does the government not acquire the encroached pockets instead,” questioned many. Some also suggested that small pockets of land be acquired or taken on lease or rent instead of going for PCs.

Reacting to this, Chief Wildlife Warden C Jayaram said that only those interested in conservation will come forward as the rule states that private lands will first have to be declared as private forest. Once this happens, Forest Conservation Act will apply. The decision of allowing commercial works on PCs can be reduced from 5%.

“This has been proposed as we need 30 lakh hectares of forest to enhance corridors. Based on the suggestions, the draft will be reworked,” he said.