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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.


1 comment:

  1. This is an extremely good initiative by Ameen and his group to start this blog and hope fully bring some pressure on the officials. Though it may be a little late to stop the work, we could see how one could suggest to the FD on having some regulation on use of the road.

    For instance, the wide road across the reserve is going to fragment the landscape that would not only affect blackbucks and other large animals but also lead to road kills of many smaller animals unless some thing is done to prevent traffic at night.

    Is there a map of the area with the new road?


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