Vote-bank politics may sound the death knell for the world-famous and India’s largest freshwater lake, Kolleru, and the bird sanctuary at Atapaka in Krishna district with chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy promising distribution of the disputed 7,600 acres to locals.
The chief minister, who is touring the district as a part of Indiramma Bata, promised locals (fishermen) at Kaikaluru on Tuesday that a ministerial committee would be appointed and the matter would be discussed with officials to go into the matter following a request from Kaikaluru MLA Jayamangala Venkataramana, minister for secondary education Kolusu Parthasarathy and some other local leaders.
According to sources in the forest department, only two acres of land will be left for the Pelican Paradise at Atapaka in Krishna district, out of the 260 acres in which the wildlife division of the forest department developed the eco-tourism destination, if the disputed 7,600 acres of land is distributed.
The exclusion of three villages in the notification for the Kolleru Bird Sanctuary has given scope for vested interests to claim that some land within the limits of these villages and surrounding areas is not included in the sanctuary. While the line connecting 11 villages on contour 5+ marked the boundary of the lake, three villages _ Pillipadu, Nutchumilli and Takkellapadu _ in the Kaikaluru and Mandavalli mandals were deleted in the notification for the bird sanctuary.
Activists, who are fighting for Kolleru Lake’s protection, argue that the omission of the three villages does not matter because the line connecting the dots is still the same.
It may be mentioned here that district collector Jyothi Buddha Prakash has already issued orders to forest officials to conduct a survey and demarcate the land. But the collector’s decision has received criticism from environmental activists including T.Patanjali Sastry, president of Environment Centre, Rajahmundry, who has been fighting for protection of the lake.
Speaking to Express, Sastry has alleged that the state government, which is supposed to create a buffer of at least 5 km, is creating unnecessary controversies based on the mistakes occurred in the notification in 1999. But the government can not distribute a single acre of the land without clearance form the National Board of Wildlife. The area also being a site falling under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty on wetlands, the government should get clearance from the United Nations Organisation (UNO), he said and added that he had written a letter to the National Board of Wildlife (NBW) and the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) in this regard.
A seven-member committee appointed to look into the possibility of downsizing the Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary has ruled against it.
Stating that this is “not viable”, the committee constituted in 2010 by the ministry of environment and forests said that shrinking the area “would further worsen the situation of Kolleru”, the largest freshwater lake in India. The committee feared that most of the lake-bed would turn into fish tanks, floods would be a regular feature, the ecological set-up of the area would degrade and wildlife would suffer serious damages.