As officials drag their heels, illegal resort makes hay in Belagavi

As officials drag their heels, illegal resort makes hay in Belagavi

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2016-05-17 10:46 Bengaluru: The state forest department’s crackdown on illegal resorts in tiger reserves has not put an end to the problem, as resort operators seemed to have shifted to other areas. One such illegal resort is operating near Chikale village of Belagavi district, despite several warnings from the department. The resort is within the Kanakumbi Territorial Range of Belagavi Forest Division within the proposed eco-sensitive zone of Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS). Though the department has directed the resort owner to cease operations, the resort continues to operate in violation of forest and wildlife Acts.The resort “Soutira Resort and Mini Water Park” is a luxury resort with cottages and a swimming pool. The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and Supreme Court directions make it mandatory for non-forestry activities in wildlife habitats (within Protected Areas (PAs) and 10 km from PA boundaries) to seek approval from the State Wildlife board (SWB) and Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife (NBW).The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has also issued “Guidance document for taking up non forestry activities in wildlife habitats. (F.No. 6-10/2011 WL dated December 19, 2012).The boundary of BWS is within two km from this resort area.The illegality came to light when an activist from Belagavi filed an RTI to know whether the owner had necessary permissions to operate the resort. The RTI revealed that owner had not obtained necessary permission from the forest department and NBW to construct a commercial resort.Later, the matter was brought to the notice of the forest officials. The Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) registered a suo motu case and asked PCCF (Wildlife) to submit a report on the matter.After this, the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Belagavi Division began issuing frequent notices to the resort owner since December 2015. He was asked to submit permissions obtained from required agencies like Forest Department, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and other competent authorities to his office within 7 days from the date of notice issued. However the resort authorities could submit only the NOC issued by Parawad Gram Panchayat. The DCF then told the resort owner to stop operations. However, the resort still remains. The DCF then sent a detailed report to PCCF, Wildlife.Following this, the PCCF wildlife personally visited and inspected the spot. When contacted about the likely action, PCCF wildlife BJ Hosmath told Bfirst that a direction has been issued to the DCF to inform the Deputy Commissioner, Belgaum district, to demolish the resort at the earliest. “There are certain procedures which need to be followed. We are just abiding by it. The resort will be demolished as it falls within pristine forest,” he said. The area where the resort is operating is surrounded by pristine forests on all sides and is an important wildlife habitat for tiger, leopard, elephant, and several other species. The area is a link between BWS and protected areas of Goa and also a part of larger tiger landscape. Such unregulated activities block critical corridors leading to human-animal conflict.