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Land usurpation threatens Siberian crane's habitat at Kolleru

Published: 24th September 2012 12:16 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th September 2012 12:16 PM   |  A+A-

The state government is leaving no stone unturned to make the Global Convention on Bio-diversity, beginning from October 1, a grand success. But, it appears that it is not so committed to the protection of bio-diversity in the state.

The unchecked illegal encroachment of the Asia's one of the largest freshwater lakes, Kolleru, which falls in the limits of Krishna and West Godavari districts, exposes the government's lackadaisical attitude towards the conservation of eco-system.

The failure in implementing the GO 120 (issued in 1999), and its inaction over the recommendations of at least three committees, the Supreme Court-constituted Central Empowered Committee, the committee headed by director of the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (Coimbatore) PA Aziz, and another one on the lake, clearly shows the government's lack of concern in protecting the bio-diversity.

According to the sources, as many as 2,000 acre of land that falls under the Kolleru boundaries has been encroached by local aqua-mafia. With the backing of politicians, thousands of illegal fish ponds are being dug up in the Atapaka Bird Sanctuary at the Kolleru lake. Besides, a recent order by Krishna district collector Jyothi Buddha Prakash to demarcate an area of 7,600 acre owing to a dispute also raises several questions on the measures being taken by the government.

It is said that some representatives of people including ministers have allegedly pressurised the collector to order a resurvey of the land and restore it to locals, saying that the land was not mentioned in the Kolleru Bird Sanctuary  notification. The lake attracts millions of domestic and migratory birds including Siberian crane, Spot-billed Pelicans and others, which was notified as a wildlife sanctuary in 2009 and also designated as a wetland of international importance in November 2002 under the Ramsar Convention. The lake covers an area of 308 sqkm.

Speaking to Express, Dr T Pathanjali Sastry, president of the Environment Centre, Rajahmandry, who has been fighting for the protection of the Kolleru lake, alleged that the government has completely failed to take local people in confidence and convince them of the importance of the lake. He found fault with the government for not collecting 'collateral damage' from illegal occupants before the Operation Kolleru as recommended by both the Central Empowered Committee and also the PA Aziz Committee.

Some local fishermen cooperative societies, who allegedly own Giraiti (private) land of about 14,000 acre in Kolleru, are asking the government to exempt them from limits of the sanctuary and the GO 120. But, the government failed to convince them to forfeit their land for the lake, due to inadequate compensation.

Dr Patanjali Sastry also found faulted with Krishana district collector Jyothi Buddha Prakash for his resurvey order. "I have written a letter to the National Board of Wildlife, chaired by the Prime Minister, and also to the Ministry of Environment and Forest on the issue," Sastry said. Sastry and others including former MP Mente Padmabanam, BV Seshagiri Rao and M V Suryanarayana Raju of the Kolleru Development Committee say that the disputed 7,600 acre indeed fall within the limits of the Kolleru, and it was a mistake that occurred during issuance of the notification.

BV Seshagiri Rao, an environmentalist, said the vote bank policy adopted by the political parties is harming the Kolleru lake, and questioned why the government failed to collect the collateral damage from illegal occupants so far. 

Former MP Mente Padmabanabam made it clear that the government can not reduce the area of Kolleru from 5 contour to 3 contour as it was rejected by the National Board of Wildlife. It may be mentioned that almost every politician is still misleading the locals to reduce the area.

State government had also failed in creating a buffer zone for at least 5 km from the protected area, and erecting boundary pillars.

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