KIOCL sells property for resorts in Kudremukh National Park

The Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd (KIOCL) has sold a part of its land along with some buildings to Alva’s Kudremukh Nisargadhama for constructing luxury health resorts to undertake eco-tourism within the limits of Kudremukh National Park, now a tiger reserve, in Chikkamagaluru district. This has caught the attention of the forest department which has served notices on both the companies.

This act of the companies, officials and experts insist, is a violation of various orders of the Supreme Court and the Wilderness Tourism Policy (WTP) 2004.

The department served show-cause notices on the chairman and managing director of the KIOCL, the Assistant General Manager, Malleswaram, Bengaluru, and the Department of Project Planning, Mangaluru, last week. “We will wait till this weekend for their response,” Ramesh Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Karkala Wildlife Division, told Deccan Herald on Monday.

The buildings that have been sold are located outside the boundary of the national park and are a private property of the KIOCL. But they fall within the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) as well as the deemed forest category. Hence, no commercial activity can be carried out without permission from the State Wildlife Board and the Chief Wildlife Warden, the official added.

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Vinay Luthra, said that no file had come to him and no permission was given for the resort. Though the said property falls under revenue land, it is still a part of the enclosed tiger reserve. So, any clearance for a resort needs departmental permission. Under the WTP, resorts are not permitted in wildlife and enclosure areas.

On December 15, 2006, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain a KIOCL petition to use existing buildings and infrastructure for promoting eco-tourism. Further, the court had directed the Central Empowered Committee to file a report on the winding-up status of the KIOCL, said K M Chinnappa of Wildlife First, a conservation advocacy organisation. “Any activity is transgression. Also, the area now belongs to the State government as the lease agreement of June 30, 2006, has ended,” he said.

According to Kumar, a field situation report revealed that the KIOCL buildings are in a dilapidated condition and need at least a month for repair and renovation. “A lot of weeds need to be cleared. So, no guest can visit the place in the near future and we will take necessary action before that. We are also trying to confirm the actual transaction and agreement between the KIOCL and Alva’s.”

On April 7, 2014, the KIOCL had invited an expression of interest to throw open closed mining areas and residential quarters to tourism. Of the total 1,401 hectares, 281 acres belong to the KIOCL. The land is located within the national park area and falls under the ESZ. It is also a part of the Western Ghats ESZ, which the Ministry of Environment and Forests notified on March 10, 2014.

Despite repeated attempts, no KIOCL official was available for comment.

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