HUBBALLI: In a shocking development, closed door efforts are being made to renotify the buffer zones of Tiger Reserve in Karnataka. The Forest Department is planning to create buffer zones with in the existing ‘core critical tiger habitats’ of Nagarhole and Bhadra Tiger Reserves.
On Thursday, a meeting was held between the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) C Jayram and Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment Department, Vandita Sharma in Bengaluru after which the forest officials in Bhadra and Nagarhole have been asked to modify the existing buffer zones.
The forest officials in these tiger reserves have been instructed to carve out the buffer zone on the lines of BRT Tiger Reserve which has half the tiger reserve area as core critical and other half as buffer zone.
The attempt to dilute the core critical tiger habitat has drawn flak within the department. A senior forest official told TNIE on the condition of anonymity, the Forest department cannot renotify already declared core critical habitat under the laws of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). “In 2007, Tiger Reserves across the country declared the entire reserve area as core critical tiger habitats to ensure the Forest Rights Act, which came in 2008 will not affect the tiger areas.
Thanks to forethought of Dr Rajesh Gopal who headed the NTCA for 15 years today tiger numbers have been bounced back. The Forest Department must know that the dilution of core critical tiger habitat is not possible under the Section 38V of The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972,” said the official.
Since December 20, 2007, four tiger reserves in Karnataka were notified their entire area of reserve as critical habitat by the Karnataka government. Under the notification Bandipur has 872 sq km of core critical tiger habitat, Nagarhole has 643 sq km, Bhadra 571 sq km and Kali Tiger Reserve has 814 sq km of declared area.
“Several bigwigs in eco-tourism industry have properties on the edges of tiger reserves. If the buffer zone is declared within the core critical habitat the tiger area will lose the protection and it can be opened up all sorts of non forestry activities,” said a wildlife activist. When contacted PCCF Wildlife Jayram, he assured that the core critical habitat will not be touched. “There were some mistakes in the buffer zones of tiger reserves. That are being corrected in the meeting,” he said.