Rumble in the jungle: Activists jittery over upcoming mela in Bandipur reserve

Rumble in the jungle: Activists jittery over upcoming mela in Bandipur reserve

Submitted by alvin on Thu, 2016-11-17 18:58 Bengaluru: Wildlife activists in the state are a worried lot as the forest department has decided to allow villagers in and around the Bandipur Tiger Reserve to attend the fair of Beladakuppe Mahadeshwara in violation of rules which state that a tiger reserve should be inviolate and undisturbed.From Nov 25 to Nov 30, the sensitive region will witness a sea of people venturing into the national park to celebrate the week-long festival in honour of Lord Beladakuppe Mahadeshwara.According to activists, over 1.5 lakh people, as many as 50,000 cattle, and nearly 15,000 vehicles would venture inside the forest during this time. “The villagers and temple authorities clear the forests for parking space,” said an activist on condition of anonymity. As part of the festival, big generators will light up the entire forest, which will be decorated with colourful lights, and people start camping wherever there is space. Artists come from far and near to entertain the devotees and shops make brisk business.“The entire activities right from vehicular access into the tiger reserve, use of generator, setting up of shops and eateries without a valid licence and conduct of cattle fair, sale of liquor and temple authorities collecting money are some of the illegal activities here,” said an activist.According to him, the activities violate sub-section (6) of Section 35 of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (destroying wildlife), Section 2 of Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, (illegal diversion of forest land) Environment (protection) Act 1986 (cause of pollution), Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act 1976.“In addition to this, the cattle brought to the mela and the canines which accompany the villagers are capable of spreading contagious diseases like foot and mouth, canine distemper, rinderpest, anthrax and other diseases,“ he said. Though the department has increased vigilance, the request of activists to restrict the number of people venturing into the forests has not been met.When questioned about the mela, a senior official on condition of anonymity said the event would be a smooth affair without any incident. Sources in the department said local political pressure had forced the department to accord permission for the mela.T Heeralal, Conservator of Forests, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, was not available for comment.