BENGALURU:Forest rest houses (FRH) and inspection bungalows (IBs) in forest areas will be soon out of bounds for tourists. Supreme Court had recently issued guidelines to stop the misuse of such buildings in forest areas. The state forest department will now take necessary steps for identification of various properties.
Meanwhile, wildlife activists have alleged that some of the rest houses have been handed over to the Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd for tourism purposes. “They should not be used for tourism purposes and must be taken back as per the Apex court’s directions,” they say.Supreme Court’s guidelines state that the FRH shall not be transferred to private and commercial entities for promotion of tourism, including eco-tourism.
Activists, however, allege that Anejhari Butterfly Camp in Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhagwathi Nature Camp in Kudremukh National Park and Seetanadi in Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary have been handed over to the JLR group.Four others, including Hemmadaga Nature Camp in Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary, Castlerock Adventure Camp in Dandeli WLS, Joggimatti NC in Chitradurga and Malaya Marutha IB (Charmadi) in Chikkamagaluru are in the process of being handed over for tourism purposes.
A wildlife activist, not willing to be identified, says, “As per the Apex court orders, forest rest houses and inspection bungalows must be handed over back to the state forest department. Intervention by private players and excessive tourism activities puts unnecessary pressure on the forest/wildlife habitat. Rest houses and inspection bungalows are meant for conservation activities, and not tourism.”
“Forest officers are required to camp inside the forests where no alternate accommodation is available. These facilities were created for camping of forest officers primarily for conservation, protection and management of forests and wildlife. Possessing limited accommodation, their control shall remain with the forest department,” read the SC order.
When contacted, a senior forest official told TNIE that the court’s order will be studied and implemented totally. “As it is, we are keeping out tourists from FRH in core areas. But in tourism zones like Bandipur and Nagarhole, keeping a few rooms for us, we will allow tourists. Regarding handing back those given to JLR, they cannot be taken back. No rest houses have been given to them, only tent structures. Malaya Martha IB will not be handed over now after the SC order.
Presently, the state forest department invites people to stay in their rest houses under certain circumstances.
Presently, Karnataka has 163 forest rest houses in various divisions which are being utilized by politicians, bureaucrats and tourists.