Greens see red over grazing cattle in Bandipur forest land

Greens see red over grazing cattle in Bandipur forest land

For villagers in the periphery, dung sale to Kerala is lucrative business

It is a zero investment business for these villagers who graze cattle in the forests and gather dung to sell it for a lucrative price. The Park with 11 ranges has at least 50 villages adjoining it. Much against the restrictions by the Forest Department, thousands of cattle are left for grazing in the forests, rendering the department helpless.

Cowherds from Yelachetti, Chikkayelachetti, Jakkali, Managala near Kundakere range, Alathur, Desipura, Mantahalli in Omkara range, Baragi in Maddur range, Hangala, Devarahalli, Kallipura in Gopalaswamy Betta range despite restrictions from the Forest department have been grazing cattle in the forests.

The villagers let in at least 10,000 cattle for grazing in these ranges.

Each household in these tiny hamlets, according to local wildlife activists, has at least 30 to 50 heads of cattle reared just for this purpose.

“One person from the village takes the cattle for grazing in the forest and collects the dung dropped by them, for the purpose of selling. He is paid Rs 600 per cattle annually," a forest department official said on condition of anonymity.

A vehicle comes to these villages every week to collect the manure (dung) paying Rs 30 per basket. The villagers store the dung in fertiliser bags, each of which has a capacity of 10-15 basketfuls.

Interestingly, none of these cattle are milching breeds or used for ploughing the fields. Most of the dung is sent to Sultan Batheri, Kalpeta and Calicut in Kerala.

“Earlier, cattle used to be grazed for the purpose of dung in ranges like N Begur, Hediyala, Maddur, Kundakere and Bandipur. Though it is restricted now in some of the ranges, it persists in the others. The villagers around the restricted ranges have also been demanding that they be allowed to graze cattle in the forest,” said a wildlife enthusiast.

Raising the issue at the meeting called by the Forest department to discuss the draft notification to declare the range as  ecologically sensitive zone (ESZ), several villagers objected to the restriction, as the over 9,000 acres of land to be declared ESZ is grazing land. The villagers demanded that they should be given grazing rights. Many MLAs supported the farmers’ demand.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests B K Singh said: “The Wildlife Institute of India has found that wherever cattle grazing has been allowed, the tiger has disappeared. If grazing is allowed, there will be no barriers and will lead to man-animal  conflict. There is no permission for grazing.”

Wildlife enthusiasts say that the department should take measures to curb grazing in all the ranges.

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