Concern over proliferation of resorts around Bandipur

Senior official calls for demolition of illegal structures

The Forest Department has urged the Chamarajanagar district administration to crack down on illegal resorts and homestays in the eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) around Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

The Chief Conservator of Forests and Director of Bandipur Tiger Reserve T. Balachandra has written to the authorities, including the Tourism Department, to initiate action and stall the ongoing work.

123 villages under ESZ

He said there are 123 villages coming under the ESZ spread over an area of 479.18 sq. km wherein construction of residential units are permitted but change of land use pattern from agricultural and horticultural to commercial use such as resorts is prohibited.

“Only farm- and agriculture-related activities can take place in the ESZ which was notified in 2012 and even large-scale commercial agricultural and horticultural ventures by companies and commercial use of natural water resources are prohibited,” said Mr. Balachandra.

“However, it has come to our notice that massive construction works for commercial purposes are taking shape in violation of the law and the same should be demolished,” said Mr. Balachandra in a a letter dated May 19, 2020 to the CEO of the Chamarajanagar Zilla Panchayat.

He has also cited specific survey numbers in six villages and has urged the Tourism Department not to grant permission for construction of homestays and resorts on these plots located at Mangala, Elchetti, Chikka Elchetti, Hangala Hosahalli, Melukamanahalli, and Maguvinahalli.

He told The Hindu that there are 14 constructions which are in violation of the ESZ norms as permission has not been sought from the ESZ Committee of which he in his capacity as the Chief Conservator of Forests, is a member and also an affected party. Also, the expansion of the structures that existed prior to 2012, is not allowed without permission from the ESZ Committee, he added.

The official said influential persons were trying to side-step the law and were bringing pressure to get clearances for new constructions. Some of the structures have swimming pools in an area which has severe water stress during summer, said Mr. Balachandra.

Nod for four homestays

A senior official in the Tourism Department said they have issued permission only for four homestays as per the government norms and was not aware of others.

Sources said the law permits individuals to construct residential units within the ESZ after getting clearances as per the norm. But if the landlord starts renting out the premises, it amounts to commercial venture and is illegal but was difficult to detect or establish.

Activists say the ESZ around Bandipur is critical for wildlife and proliferation of resorts and increase in human activity causes disturbance to animal movement.

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