Wildlife warden builds resort in protected forest

Wildlife warden builds resort in protected forest

Wildlife warden builds resort in protected forest

In a case of protector turning predator, an honorary wildlife warden has been found to be constructing a luxury resort by encroaching upon forest land in Bhadra Protected Forest.

The officials of the Karnataka Forest department, in a two-day operation, have detected illegal constructions abutting Bhadra Protected Forest, by Satish Gowda, the honorary wildlife warden.
Gowda was appointed to the post four months ago. He is accused of constructing the resort at a cost of Rs two crore in flagrant violation of wildlife Acts.An official of the Chikkamagaluru forest mobile squad said Gowda owned seven acres of land in survey No. 216 in Sirivase village, which is adjacent to Bhadra and Masagali protected forests. 

He said Gowda had not obtained permission for change in land use (land conversion), but secured building licence from the gram panchayat for constructing a farmhouse on the agricultural land.

“He has been constructing a huge building on 0.75 acre of land which is situated between Bhadra Protected Forest and Masagali Reserve Forest, without obtaining any permission/no-objection certificate from the Forest department or district administration,” he said.

A huge pond, playgrounds, cages for keeping birds and animals have been constructed in front of the building. An electric fence has been erected around the building. A tank has been constructed to collect water from the stream which flows from Seegekhan Hill. A five-inch diameter pipe has been laid for a distance of one kilometre - all along the protected forest land. The water is flown to a private land, officials said. The water from this stream is being used for constructing the resort building. The course of all-season Somavahini stream has been altered to facilitate the construction. Furthermore, a narrow track through the forest has been widened to a 30-foot road by felling trees.

The official added that though Gowda claimed to be practising organic farming on the land, there were no signs of any such activity on the ground. The construction activity in the core zone of the protected forest had been going on for the six-seven months, unabated.

Forest officials have filed a first information report against Satish under Sections 24, 33, 73(D), 78 and 104 of Karnataka Forest Act, 1963 and Sections 2(15) 27(1) (a) (3), 29, 35(5) (6) of Wildlife Protection Act and Section 2 of Forest Conservation Act, 1980. Case under various Sections of Karnataka Forest Act, 1963, have also been booked. 

Persons involved in wildlife and environmental conservation are appointed honorary wildlife warden, based on the recommendation by district officials of the Forest department. However, a forest official, who did not want to be named, said there was no such recommendation in the case of Gowda.