Forest Road Triggers Poaching Fears
CHITRADURGA: A 3-km road built near Hebbe range in Chikkamagaluru forest division has raised the hackles of wildlife conservationists who say that it is traversing the protected belt of Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary.
However, forest officials claim that they have stopped the work. Expressing serious concern, activists say the new road will aid and abet both poachers and smugglers in the tiger reserve.
The second stretch of the Guddi Ambla Road has been built under the ‘Namma Grama Namma Raste’ scheme at a cost of `44.96 lakh. Passing through thick verdant forest belt, it is a 1.45 km stretch traversing Bedare to Guddi Ambala in Chikkamagaluru taluk.
Wildlife conservationists in the district say, “It was earlier a mud track with no demands being made by the local communities for a concrete road. With the works involving excavation for foundation, building of a super structure for a bridge and continuous cementing work, it has not only disturbed the sanctuary area but also affected the movement of wildlife.”
They added that this was not the first time an illegal road was allowed to be laid in the protected areas of Chikkamagaluru district. Time and again, forest officials have remained silent, thereby violating norms and guidelines under the Forest and Wildlife Acts.
They say, “There is neither any clearance nor sanction from the state or Central wildlife boards. The sanction was for the road to be built in the territorial forests and not the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary hosting Project Tiger and a unique habitat of shola forests and mountain grasslands. This is a haven for a variety of species ranging from tigers, elephants, sloth bears to black leopards and Malabar giant squirrels.”
A concerned activist explains, “As you traverse this area, you can see how the contractors have uprooted lots of trees and bamboo groves without any concern. The Hebbe Range Officer has not booked any case against the contractor from NR Pura and has allowed the road works to be completed. They have violated all rules under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, by permitting use of heavy machinery for building an illegal road inside a protected area.”
However, Hebbe Range Forest Officer Manjunath clarified that they have stopped work on the last bit of the road stretching for 50 mts as it was cutting into territorial forests.
“We have taken all measures to stop the work the moment it was brought to our notice. The road has not entered the sanctuary area, but is in territorial forest area. The road can be further extended but was stopped because of a dispute between two sections of people. But it be not be allowed to come into the sanctuary area. The wildlife activists have good intention to protect the forest areas, but we too are on our toes to protect wildlife and its habitat,” he told Express.