BENGALURU:A luxury health resort that is coming up within the enclosures of the Kudremukh National Park (KNP) in some buildings ‘leased’ out by Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd (KIOCL) to the Mohan Alva Group has invoked the wrath of wildlife conservationists even as the Forest Department says it will shut down the resort if it becomes operational.
However, KIOCL claims it has not leased any building but only outsourced it and has not violated any rulings or guidelines of the Supreme Court.
Wildlife advocacy groups in Bengaluru and activists from Chikkamagaluru have urged the state government to take urgent action and stop any commercial activity and also check encroachments of government land that falls within KNP limits. If this is allowed, other national parks in the state may be opened up for commercial activity in Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ), they added.
Wildlife First trustees Praveen Bhargava and K M Chinnappa said, “It is now established that KIOCL has sub-leased/handed over many buildings within KNP limits to Alva’s Kudremukh Nisargadhama, a luxury health resort which stands on government land. Prima facie, this appears to be a case of encroachment. The said area is also a notified ESZ where such activity cannot be permitted as per Supreme Court orders.”
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Vinay Luthra told Express that they had already sent notices to both KIOCL and the Chikkamagaluru DC, as without the Forest Department’s permission, any luxury health resort cannot take off in a KNP enclosure as per the state’s Wilderness Tourism policy of 2004. However, he added, “These buildings do not fall within the forest limits, so we are unable to take any direct action against the construction activity taken up by Mohan Alva Group. However, as the area falls within one of the enclosures of the KNP and they have taken up commercial activity without our permission, we will definitely shut it down if it becomes operational”
KIOCL Director (Production and Projects) N Vidyananda told Express that they had not violated any rulings of the apex court, which had barred only mining activity, and they had all the right to take up eco-tourism activity.
“We have outsourced our guest house and a few quarters to Mohan Alva and not leased any building. No construction activity is going on and it is being just refurbished. We have replied to the notice given by Forest Department. These buildings are in a revenue area and we are maintaining our infrastructure in the best possible way,” he claimed.
Bhargava, however, does not concur. He said, “The Supreme Court, in its judgment on December 15, 2006, did not entertain KIOCL’s plea to use its existing buildings and infrastructure for promoting eco-tourism. Further, we have reliable information that KIOCL is also negotiating with a five-star hotel group to sub-lease other parcels of land which will be a grave threat not only to KNP, but all other protected areas where such enclosures exist.”
Conservationist D V Girish said, “The leased buildings, where presently construction and renovation is going on, are not the property of KIOCL to be given to all and sundry. KIOCL has already done irreparable damage through mining and should be thrown out before they completely destroy this ESZ.”
Due to the restrictions imposed by the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the ESZ Guidelines of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the State’s Wilderness Tourism Policy, such government land, where rights vest with the government, enjoys the status of a District Forest as per Karnataka Forest Act, 1963 and the wooded areas ‘Forests’ as defined in the 12/12/1996 orders of the Supreme Court, said Bhargav. “KIOCL should be completely evicted from KNP as per law once for all,” he added.
- PCCF Vinay Luthra said these buildings do not fall within forest limits, so we are unable to take any direct action against the construction
- KIOCL Director (Production and Projects) N Vidyananda said they had not violated any rulings of the apex court, which had barred only mining activity
- Wildlife conservationist D V Girish said the leased buildings are not the property of KIOCL to be given to all and sundry
- Greens want government to stop commercial activity and also check encroachments of government land that falls within KNP limits