Karnataka: Experts oppose proposal to divert forest land for construction of five-star hotel near Jog Falls

Major wild animals found in and around the project area include langoors, spotted deer, wild boars, gaurs, Malabar giant squirrels, king cobras, Malabar grey hornbills and peacocks.

With the Karnataka forest department proposing a five-star hotel near the Jog falls, environmentalists have said the move will destroy the natural flora and fauna of the place. The office of the deputy commissioner and chief executive officer of the Jog Management Authority has sought diversion of 0.8536 hectare of forest land in Nadawada Talakalale village, Shivamogga district, for the project.

While the Forest Department has recommended the hotel in lieu of an existing PWD guest house, the state government is yet to approve the project. The site falls in the deemed eco-sensitive zone of Sharavathi Valley Lion Tailed Macaque Sanctuary.

Major wild animals found in and around the project area include langoors, spotted deer, wild boars, gaurs, Malabar giant squirrels, king cobras, Malabar grey hornbills and peacocks.

Apart from the development of the hotel, there are plans to come up with a ropeway between the two banks of Sharavathi river in front of the Jog Falls. The tentative civil cost (excluding GST) for the development of the hotel and ropeway has been estimated at Rs 75 crore and Rs 20 crore, respectively.

The state government has also decided to develop the Jog Falls and its surrounding areas with a dedicated transit hub, grand entrance, retail outlets, view decks and central islands.

However, a guideline of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) reads, “It has come to the notice of this office that a lot of construction activities have either started or under consideration with funds particularly from the Tourism Department in the name of upgradation/renovation of existing structures or in some other name primarily to promote tourism. The Central Government will not entertain any proposals for diversion of forest land for construction of residential or dwelling houses. Diversion of forest land for construction of other buildings also will not be normally considered.”

In the light of this guideline, wildlife conservationist Giridhar Kulkarni said any attempt to recommend the present commercial tourism project proposal will have an adverse impact on the flora and fauna of the region.

“The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 permits only unavoidable use of forest land for various developmental purposes. The construction of a five star hotel on forest land, that too in an eco-sensitive zone, is definitely not an unavoidable situation since the project is purely intended to promote commercial tourism which is not in consonance with the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,” Kulkarni said.

The Karnataka government in June 2014 had sought the prior approval of the Central Government for the diversion of 0.4046 hectare forest land at the same location for development and wellness of tourists and ayurvedic centre. The proposal was rejected by the Centre on the ground that the project was not site-specific and also not in the interest of conservation of forests.

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