BENGALURU: Once again, the Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR) is getting ready for the annual Beladakuppe Madeshwara Temple Jathre in Nanjangud taluk that will take off on November 24 at Hediyala range, but with a big difference.
For the first time, the state Forest Department has introduced numerous restrictions and regulations so that wildlife including tigers and leopards in this high conflict zone are not affected during the week-long religious event.
Every year, this festival witnesses thousands of people, cattle, loud music, colourful lighting powered by high-capacity generators, and numerous other events held in the core areas. Apart from this, hundreds of shops and food stalls are set up, tractors will be put on display, and about 15,000 vehicles and one lakh heads of cattle can be seen at this annual event.
However, forest authorities who held a meeting with the temple trust, district and police officials, have introduced a set of regulations which will bring in a positive change for the first time.
Speaking to Express, BTR Director T Heeralal said, “We have devised a strategy for protecting our wildlife during this event, but by next year, it will be 100 per cent. We have brought in a lot of restrictions -- like only 15 shops will be allowed, unlike last year when there were 70. We have restricted the entry of private vehicles and so people will have to come to the Jathre in buses. In this regard, we have requested the KSRTC to provide buses to lakhs of devotees who throng the event.”
The director added, “Another major concern was the installation of diesel generators in the reserve area. This time, only two generators will be allowed and that too in the temple premises and not outside it. Earlier, 70-75 generators were installed but all this has been stopped. Nobody will be allowed to cut any trees for firewood. Cattle will not be allowed inside the reserve and we are trying our best to ensure that the crowds and events during this Jathre are regulated. For monitoring our core areas, we will be deploying additional staff including 50 forest personnel and also requested for deployment of police personnel,” Heeralal added.
According to local wildlife activists, over the years, the frequent large congregation of pilgrims, cattle, entry of vehicles and resource usage, clearing of vegetation for pitching up tents, shops, eateries and food stalls has caused irreparable damage to the forest ecology.
In the notification of BTR, it is clearly stated that pilgrims are allowed to visit the temples only for religious purpose without affecting the flora, fauna and the environment of the national park by sacrificing animals, littering the place, and creating noise pollution. This should be followed in toto.
Welcoming the regulations, activists said, “This forest range is like a peninsula surrounded by human habitation and has a high conflict rate compared to other ranges of the tiger reserve. The week-long celebration in the core areas disorients the wildlife towards human habitation leading to aggravated conflicts. BTR is home to large mammals such as tigers, elephants, leopards, gaur and other ungulates and there is a need for total protection measures in the coming years.”