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27 July, 2007

150 years later, Devarayanadurga Forest chugs along...

I recently came upon some facts on Devarayanadurga forests, not known to many outside the forest department. Most of these are mentioned in Letter No. 3676, dated the 20th of November 1906, from the Conservator of Forests in Mysore. This makes an interesting read for any one who knows about this wonderful piece of woodland, considered to be the earliest reserve forest not only in Karnataka but also in India.

Devarayanadurga at present is a 42 sq km forest located on the outskirts of south India's Tumkur City. It has a population of wild langur, chital, leopards and wild boars. It is home to nearly 250 species of birds and more than 50 butterfly types. It feeds tens of streams that quench the parched throats of tens of thousands of surrounding villagers. The forest forms a major catchment area for the two streams- Jaya and Mangali. These streams have been dammed at Irrakasandra Project and Teeta Dam (the well-known Goravanahalli Temple). Downstream they join the Northern Pinakini River in Andhra Pradesh, that ultimately empties into the Bay of Bengal.

1853: The earliest protection was started in 1853, when these forests were protected under revenue department by the British.

1868: After fifteen years of partial protection in the Revenue Department, the ownership of this forest was transferred to the Forest Department and it was constituted a State Forest. It then had an area of 18 square miles (46.62 sq. km), according to Captain Vansomeran's memo appended to his annual report of 1873-74. The same remained unaltered till 1877-78.

In 1879: The forest was surveyed and mapped by the Mysore Topographical survey Department, according to which the computed area was 11 square miles and 256 acres (29.52 sq. km), but somehow this area was not taken into account, and the old estimated area, v.i.z, 18 square miles, continued to be shown in the accounts.

Between 1880 and 1882: The forest was, without formal enquiry, extended, by the addition of an estimated area of 6 square miles (15.53 sq. km), chiefly on the north, east and west.

1883: On 6th February 1883, according to notification No. 38 under Section 9 of the Revised Forest Rules of 1878 in force then in the Mysore Province, the whole Devarayanadurga forest block was re-demarcated and its boundaries were notified based on the lines demarcating the forest from the villages surround it. But the notification did not specify, the actual revised area of the block.

In 1891-92 and 1893-94: About half a square mile consisting of Vaddarahalli and Chennaveeranahalli Jodi lands was excluded, as 'they had been wrongly included in the demarcation line and the net area of the State Forest has thereafter been continued to be shown as 29 ½ square miles* in the annual returns of this office'. (*76.40 sq. km)

In 1889: The area was further extended east on the orders of Mr.Ricketts, late Inspector General of Forests, by the addition of Doddavadibetta Block, estimated to compromise about 6 square miles (15.53 sq. km), and this block was notified by the Government in 1895 ( No.3839 – Ft. 227, dated 12th October).

In 1896: Col. Walker noticed during his tour in the district 'that the forest extended from time to time without formal settlement, was encumbered with numerous rights and privileges, and accordingly ordered a careful investigation into the latter and the revision of the boundaries, if necessary'.

In 1897-98: The settlement was, accordingly, carried out by a revenue officer in concert with the District Forest Officer and was finally disposed of by the Deputy Commissioner. The then Conservator of Forests, Col. Walker, was satisfied with the settlement. The boundaries were finally rectified.

1906: With reference to para 2 of Government Order No. R. 15437-8 – Ft. 169-06-03, dated the 1st June 1906, the revised boundaries of the Devarayanadurga State Forest were forwarded for publication, both in English and '*Kanarese*' (as Kannada was probably called then) in the Gazette.

1907: On 19 February this year, the final notification of the forest was published vide Govt. Order no: 7591-Fr-120-06-3. This notification included 16.88 square miles (43.72 sq. km) of area as Devarayanadurga state forest.

Other interesting years of Devarayanadurga forest:
1939-1940: Dr. Salim Ali 'celebrated' the new year here during his study of birds of the erstwhile State of Mysore. The hill myna recorded by him then is not to be found here today. The yellowthroated sparrow was 're-discovered' by a WANC team in 2007 after a gap of 69 years (read about it here).

In 1960s: Kenneth Anderson shot dead 'The Hermit of Devarayandurga' as written by him in his book Nine Man-Eaters and One Rouge.

In 1996: The then DCF, Dr. Uday Veer Singh (of the Lokayukta Karnataka Mining Report fame) reported  sighting a tiger.

2000s: A tiger was subsequently reported occasionally by local nature lovers and forest staff between 2000 and 2006. While some say it is a wild animal that has sneaked in here, a few contend it might be one from 'Touring circus' or private captivity, that was released here as the Forest Department tightened its noose on captive big game in mid-1990s.

For those wanting to know the current conservation issues of this and other wilderness areas of Tumkur and surrounding districts, please visit

For more information on DD, kindly visit

I would appreciate correction of any mistakes. Comments/ suggestions welcome.

In conservation,

20 July, 2007

How forest friendly is Karnataka's Wind Energy?

Posted on 10 July 2007. Updated with google maps on 5 June 2013.

A view of one of the hills carved up for wind farms and electricity transmission lines, seen from the Sri Rangapatna - Bidar State Highway No: 19 (proposed National Highway^) just north of Huliyar Town along Chitradurga - Tumkur districts' border.
For quite some time, renewable energy sources have been touted to be a viable alternative to coal energy that causes global warming and hydro energy that drowns prime forests.

To encourage renewable energy production, the Government is aggressively pushing wind energy production. But these days, wind farms are being set up by businessmen whose main concern is profit making and not nature conservation. Tens of thousands of wind turbines and electric power transmission lines have sprouted all over south India, particularly in the immediate vicinity of Western Ghats.

Among the areas where wind turbines have been erected in Karnataka are the hills and highlands of eastern parts of Chitradurga district and in western parts of Tumkur district. We saw these windmills first hand this month and I am sad to say that these windmills have had a very immediate negative impact in the forests where they have been set up.
1) Each such wind mill has a concrete base of at least 30 feet by 30 feet.
2) Each one of these has an individual road access.
3) Hundreds of trees have been removed to accommodate these giant "fans" and electric power transmission lines.
4) The transportation of giant equipment to set these wind mills (and also the electricity transmission lines)  requires movement of trucks as well as earth moving equipment, many of them heavy, which causes long term damage to the forest and soil as well as enormous disturbance to the local flora and fauna.

An approach road on one of the hills carved up for wind farms just north of Huliyar town in Tumkur district along its border with Chitradurga District. 

A not too pretty scene of the aftermath on one of the hills carved up for wind farms, electricity transmission lines and access roads just north of Huliyar town along Chitradurga - Tumkur districts' border.

Aerial view (google maps) of windmills and access roads inside Chitradurga district's largest contiguous forest, Mari Kanive state forest (230 + sq. km together with Kudure Kanive SF & Kudure Kanive SF Extension I) ~
Click here for a larger map

Aerial view (google maps) of windmills and access roads inside Tumkur district's largest contiguous forest, Bukkapatna reserve forest (132 sq. km). #
Click here for a larger map.

A google map screenshot highlighting the largest contiguous forests in Chitradurga & Tumkur districts where windmills have come up. Located to the north-west are Mari Kanive state forest and surrounding forests like Kudre Kanive (230+ sq. km. in Chitradurga district). The ones south of it are Bukkapatna state forest (136 sq. km in Tumkur district) and its surrounding forests like Manchaldore reserve forest.
Click here for larger map
This way almost every hill top of the Mari Kanive state forest and other reserve forests along Tumkur-Chitradurga border has just been devastated. The same is true to the largest contiguous forest of Tumkur District - Bukkapatna reserve forest (136 sq. km). The building of these roads and power transmission lines along with iron ore mining (much of it illegal) has also "opened up the forests for tree looters" and the situation is "just out of control in Mari Kanive forests" according to a local forest watcher . These wind mills are atop the hills that extend for hundreds of kilometres north, up to Gadag district, in north Karnataka.

Due to their destructive nature, there already have been protests against the setting up of wind farms in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, namely Baba Budan Giri range (adjoining Bhadra Tiger Reserve) and Kudremukh National Park.

As a nature lover I have opposed hydro dams as being detrimental to forests. But, by witnessing the damage done by wind farms in Karnataka's forests, I doubt if wind energy in our country is really that green.

But that brings us back to where we started. What is the alternative? Or is there really one?

With Mallikarjun (Mallik) and Guru Prasad TV

Wind farms on almost every hill top inside the Mari Kanive State Forest in Karnataka's Chitradurga District. Electricity transmission lines cutting through the forests can also be seen.

A hill top carved up for wind farms inside the Mari Kanive State Forest in Karnataka's Chitradurga District.


# Working Plan for Tumkur Forest Division, Approved by Govt. of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests dated: 01-02-2002, for the period 2001-02 to 2010-11.

~ Deputy Conservator of Forests, Chitradurga Division

18 July, 2007

Illegal road work devastates Karnataka's newest Conservation Reserve

The small bullock cart path from Giregowdanahalli - ID Halli cross that passes through Jayamangali Blackbuck Conservation Reserve has been expanded violating the Forest Conservation Act (1980) and the Honourable Supreme Court of India's 1996 judgement in the Godavarman Thirumalpad vs Union of India case. (The above picture was taken just outside the boundaries of the reserve, pictures from inside the reserve can be seen below).

The Jayamangali Blackbuck Conservation Reserve near Maidenahalli has been severely affected by a road construction, as has been happening in Devarayanadurga. During our last conversation, the DCF of Tumkur had assured WANC member Ameen Ahmed that no permission was sought to build this road and that he would instruct the RFO to stop this. Unfortunately the destruction at Maidenahalli is a sad indication of the way things have been working in Tumkur Division of Karnataka Forest Department now.

A new course has been created at many places along the path, causing great damage to the natural vegetation inside the Conservation Reserve.

Many small trees, shrubs and vegetation has been felled and uprooted inside the reserve

A view of the boulders that have been uprooted from their original place and strewn inside the Conservation Reserve.

Ameen Ahmed lodged a complaint with the DCF, Tumkur Territorial Division and also with the Chief Executive Officer of Zilla Panchayat, Tumkur to protest this. Please read the below complaint lodged with the Tumkur DCF to know more on this issue.

Ameen Ahmed
Ghouse Buildings
Horpet Main Road
Tumkur 5721 01

Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF)
Tumkur Territorial Division
Tumkur City 5721 01
Date: 2nd July 2007

Respected Sir,

Sub: Complaint against illegal expansion of Giregowdanahalli – Maidenahalli / Hosahalli 'kachcha' road / cart track inside Jayamangali Blackbuck Conservation Reserve, Madhugiri Taluk, Tumkur District
I am a wildlife enthusiast from Tumkur, working to protect wildlife in Karnataka since 1990. In 1996, along with Dr.U.V.Singh, IFS, I published a document on the wildlife of Maidenahalli area, Madhugiri to help the protection of Blackbuck there. This Status Survey report of ours formed one of the basis for the recent declaration by the Government of Karnataka of Jayamangali Blackbuck Conservation Reserve.

As you know, Jayamangali Blackbuck Conservation area is one of the most beautiful patches of grasslands in India. It is the best place in Karnataka to see and photograph Blackbuck. The density of blackbuck here, per sq km, is higher than that of Ranibennur, one of India's oldest blackbuck sanctuaries. Blackbuck apart, this area has some of the rarest and most endangered birds. In fact, this place is the pride of not only Tumkur District but also our Karnataka state.

About this issue:Sir, as you know there is a small bullock cart track, about 10 feet wide, that passes through this reserve from Giregowdanahalli to Maidenahalli / Hosahalli, the right of which has been given under the recent Karnataka Government’s notification to create this reserve. Local villagers rarely use this road, as both Hosahalli and Maidenahalli already have a good road access from Kodigenahalli village via the Hindupura - Madhugiri inter-state highway.

Last month (June 2007), this track was expanded to 30 feet wide. I was informed that the road widening has been funded by Zilla Panchayat. I had been to the area on 20th May, 3rd June, 20th June and 1st July this year and was saddened by the destruction it has caused. In fact this road, at many places, looks like a state highway. I could specifically document the following damage:

1) Many thorn bushes that are used by blackbuck to hide from their enemies and used by birds to build nests, have been uprooted.

2) Many rocks, below which snakes and other reptiles use to take shelter, have been removed from the path.

3) The road has been straightened at many places where there were curves, creating new paths a many places.

4) I have been visiting this area since 1993. The blackbuck of this area are well known to be approached closely and are used to being approached on vehicles by nature lovers. I have counted herds of more than a hundred blackbuck during my earlier visits here. But during my visits here on 20th June and 1st July this year (when the JCB work was over), I could see only count 4 of them on this road, apart from 2 inside the reserve. And these looked extremely vary of humans. They bolted away the very moment they saw my car.

5) The road expansion has destroyed a prime habitat of the Indian Courser (Courser coromandelicus) in the area.

About threat from this road to this area and its wildlife:
All the above, I believe, are a serious threat to the very existence of the blackbuck and other rare wildlife of this area. I am attaching a few pictures to share the scenes that I saw.

Sir, the fact is, the upgrading of this track into a tarred road will not make any difference to the local villagers. On the other hand it will
1) Increase, by manifold, the number of vehicles entering the forest.
2) Likely to bring in "VIP" poachers on luxury cars like the infamous Salman Khan poaching.
3) Drive away the blackbuck away from the sanctuary and exacerbate the existing conflict with the surrounding farmers.
4) Will encourage others in the area to take wildlife and forest department lightly and commit similar acts in the future.

My request to you:
In view of the above, on behalf of Tumkur’s nature lovers I humbly request you to
1) Ask those responsible for the damage to undo the damage and restore the wildlife habitat to its original form.
2) File complaints and take action, under Wildlife Protection Act (1972) and relevant laws, against the perpetrators of these acts and bring them to justice.
3) Immediately take steps to prevent any further construction work inside the blackbuck reserve.
4) Take steps to prevent this road from being tarred inside this reserve in the future.

We have already brought the matter to the notice of the Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Panchayat, Tumkur.

It is a matter of grave concern to every nature lover of Tumkur that a road can be built through the heart of a notified conservation reserve over a period of two weeks without seeking permission from the Government of India under Forest Conservation Act (1980). It will be a bigger shame if we as nature lovers of Tumkur are not able to save this pride of Karnataka.

Thank you.

With you in conservation,

Ameen Ahmed

- PCCF (Wildlife), Aranya Bhavan, Bangalore

- Conservator of Forests, Hassan Territorial Circle, Hassan City

- Conservator of Forests, Forest Conservation Circle, Bangalore

- Assistant Conservator of Forests, Madhugiri Sub-Division, Madhugiri Town Tumkur District

Apart from this, the forest department (Social Forestry) has also planted new eucalyptus saplings in one of the grasslands surrounding the conservation reserve.

Another view of the uprooted vegetation inside the Conservation Reserve.

The trench that has been dug by uprooting shrubs inside the Conservation Reserve.