COIMBATORE: Coimbatore Forest Department and City Police decided to conduct a joint inspection of Bharathiyar University campus, where the city police proposed to set up a firing range. The site was caught in controversy as it was frequented by wild animals like wild elephants and spotted deer. The Forest Department expressed its reservations after its inspection on Friday. M Nazir, Assistant Conservator of Forest (Forest protection squad), who inspected BU grounds on Friday sent a letter to Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) Basuvaraj to take steps to stop the proposal since it would escalate man animal conflict.
The copies were also sent to S Ramasubramaniam, Conservator of Forest, Coimbatore circle and N Satheesh, District Forest officer (DFO) Coimbatore. “The police department can shift the firing range to Madukkarai or Annur or some other places as the current proposed place is located near the forest boundary. We have also interacted with the people nearby and they told us that elephants, leopard, Indian guar, spotted deer, sambar deer, sloth bear and wild boar frequently visited the area.
Human-elephant conflict is increasing in Madukkarai because of the existing army firing range. Elephants are entering human habitations and are damaging crops frequently only due to frequent firing,” he says. He is also critical of a similar proposal to be established on the elephant corridor of Maruthamalai foothills stating that it will disturb wild animal movement.
“We are planning to carry out an inspection with the senior police officials on Monday or Wednesday and until then, the project has been temporarily stopped. We will submit the report to them about how many wild animals are using the place and how the project would affect the animals badly,” says N Satheesh, DFO. He has clarified that the police seeks permission to use the grounds once in a year and NCC too has placed in a request to access the facility.
“Though it is only once in a year, we have to be cautious and take steps to withdraw the project for the welfare of the animals,” he says. When contacted, A Amalraj, City Police Commissioner says they have selected the open space on BU premises similar to army firing range in Madukkarai. He implies that they will go ahead with their plan.
K Kalidass, president of NGO Osai, has demanded that the firing range should be shifted to another place for the safety of the wild animals as the proposed site near Maruthamalai hills is a human- animal conflict prone area. According to him, a decade back, a firing range that was set up by the Special Task Force (STF) inside the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR) was shifted out of the STR after strong opposition to it. Similarly, a proposal to set up a firing range near Athikadavu near Pillur dam was also dropped following similar resistance from the Forest Department and environmentalists. Over the past several decades human encroachment of wildlife habitats has spiked sharply.