Illegal resorts mushrooming on the border regions of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) worry Forest Department officials, as they take tourists inside the forest area without official permission.
According to sources, nearly ten resorts have been set up in the last one-and-a-half years on the Sethumadai and Aliyar forest boundaries without getting no objection certificates (NOC) from the Forest authorities. The Forest Department have been able to do little to check their flourishing business.
The resorts blocked the animal pathway at Sethumadai and wild elephants walk into groves adjoining the forest, and destroy the plantations.
Authorities of Kottur Panchayat gave a building approval in Navamalai forest area last year. However, construction activity was stopped by Forest Officials a couple of months ago following media reports. Sources said that the building owner, who reportedly got permission from Kottur Panchayat to construct a farm house, had converted it into a resort.
The resort owners attract tourists by advertising on their websites that guests can see wild animals at close quarters.
Staff from these resorts allegedly collect extra money from tourists to escort them inside the forest area.
When contacted Rajiv Srivastava, ATR field director, told Express that he had instructed Pollachi Forest Ranger Ganesram to inspect the location of the resorts and submit a report at the earliest.
He, however, denied the allegations that private resort staff take tourists inside the forest areas illegally.
“We have strengthened our entire anti-poaching watchers’ camp and intensified patrolling at Iyar Padi and Sarcarpathy forest periphery areas. There is no chance that the tourists are entering the forest illegally,” he said.
Ganeshram said that he advised the resort owners in Sethumadai and Aliyar areas to take permission from the Hill Area Conservation Authority (HACA) and had stopped any further construction at the forest boundaries.
“We have given a couple of month’s time to the resort owners to get permission from HACA and if that is not done we will close down the resorts with assistance from local bodies,” said Ganeshram.
“We will take action only if the resorts generate noise pollution that disturbs the wild animals,” he said.