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19 October, 2007

Inquiry ordered into tree felling in Devarayanadurga forests (Oct. 07)

Dear all,

The nature lovers in our media have helped immensely in the recent expose of irregularities in Devarayanadurga's jungles. Media of Tumakuru City were among those who caught the forest minister's gunman felling trees inside Devarayanadurga State Forest this Wednesday. The stories carried out by Devaraj, District Correspondent of The New Indian Express and Chandru, TV9 Tumakuru correspondent were noticed by Karnataka's Anti-corruption department(Lokayukta). The Deputy Chief of Karnataka's Lokayukta (Upa-Lokayukta) has ordered an enquiry into this. Please read the story at the end of this email.

In conservation,
Ameen

----------------------------------------------------------
SOURCE:
The New Indian Express, Bangalore - State, Page 6
Friday, October 19, 2007

-------Quote-------

INQUIRY INTO CHARGES AGAINST CHENIGAPPA'S GUNMAN, OFFICIALS
Bangalore, Oct 18:

Upalokayukta Justice G Patri Basavana Goud on Tursday ordered a prelimnary inquiry against gunman of former forest minister C Chennigappa amd two forest officials for allegedly felling trees inthe Devarayanadurga Reserve Forest. Taking suo-muto notics of a news report that appeared in 'The NewIndian Express' on Thursday with regard to illegal felling of trees,the Upalokayukta has directed Conservator of Forests, Bangalore Circle, UV Singh to conduct a prelimnary inquiry and submit a report within one month. Based on the report, the Upalokayukta will decide whether or not a regular investigation under section 9 of the Lokayukta Act should be initiated. The report stated that Chennigappa's gunman Hanumanthappa was caught red-handed while fellingtrees and shifting logs from the forest.

-----Unquote-----

Please read yesterday's story on the gunman being caught at http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEK20071018021527&Page=K&Headline=Chennigappa%92s+gunman+caught+felling+trees&Title=Southern+News+%2D+Karnataka&Topic=0

Forest minister's gunman caught felling trees in Devarayanadurga jungles (Oct. 07)




















SOURCE:
The New Indian Express, Bangalore - State, Page 6
October 18, 2007

http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEK20071018021527&Page=K&Headline=Chennigappa%92s+gunman+caught+felling+trees&Title=Southern+News+%2D+Karnataka&Topic=0

------------------Quote---------------------

Chennigappa's gunman caught felling trees
Express News Service

Tumkur,Oct 17:
President's rule seems to have no impact on former forest minister C Chenigappa's chelas. They continue to fell trees and lift them illegally from the Devarayanadurga reserve forest, 12 km from here. Hanumanthappa, gunman of the former minster, was caught red handed onWednesday, while felling tres and shifting logs from the forests. Some people hired by the gunman and some Forest Department workers werespotted axing the trees and loading the logs into a tractor. His home village Bandihalli is about 10 km from the spot. When environmentalists and mediamen qustioned him, Hanumanthappa claimed that he had taken permission from Assistant Conservator ofForests Srinivas and RFO Krishnappa. According to him, section forester Rakesh conducted a 'mahajr' by visiting the spot and gave a green signal to axe an old tree. A huge tree was axed along with several young trees. DCF Paramesh could not be contacted as his mobile was switched off. Local forest officials 'co-operated' with the law-breakers in the forests made it clear that they have to follow 'instructions from the top brass'.

------------------Unquote---------------------

18 October, 2007

Anti-Corruption police chief inspects illegal forest road (Oct 2007)

Dear all,

Last Friday (12th October 2007) afternoon, I had been to the office ofthe Superintendent of Police, Lokayukta (Anti-corruption) Tumakuru, regarding the irregularities inside Devarayanadurga. After explaining him the situation, I offered to take him to Chinnaga. He readily accepted. I was surprised how a cop would accept to visit the forest with me in half an hour but the District's forest officials failed to do this even 4 months after filing the 1st written complaint (in June2007).

Myself and Mallikarjun went with him. The situation was the same inChinnaga area- there was sand lifting from the areas where the road has been built, people are taking out felled trees and there is illegal stone lifting going besides the road. The SP saw all this.While returning back to Swandenahalli village the SP himself enquired with the village road contractor asking him about the persons behind the Chinnaga road. The local village contractor told that the particular contractor who carried out blasting and felling in forestand the work in Chinnaga area was one Mr.Prakash of the nearby Birenahalli in Tumakuru Taluk. And guess what...the funds were directly provided by Tumkauru MLA, from his constituency development fund! The SP was not happy about this. He was convinced with our efforts and said he would summon the local RFO/ACF and AEE, ZP to seek an explanation on who is behind this road. After that, we took the SPto Devarayanadurga Wireless tower via Belagumba Village and Namadachelume. All along the way we showed and explained him the tree felling inside the reserve forest.

Following up with this, I filed a complaint of corruption and maladministration with the Lokayukta of Karnataka, Bangalore against the following forest officers incharge of this road:
- DCF, Tumakuru Territorial Division
- ACF, Tumakuru Territorial Sub-Division
- RFO, Tumakuru Territorial Range
- Forester, Swandenahalli/Chinnaga section, Tumakuru Territorial Range
- Forest Guard, Swandenahalli/Chinnaga section, Tumakuru Territorial Range

Kindly read details of the complaint at: http://tumkurenvironment.blogspot.com/2007/10/complaint-with-lokayukta-karnataka.html

You can monitor http://tumkurenvironment.blogspot.com for new developments on this and related issues.

In conservation,

Ameen

Ameen Ahmed
WANC,
Tumakuru

Complaint with Lokayukta Karnataka against maladministration in Devarayanadurga Forests (Oct 07)

Dear nature lovers,

The following is the text of complaint (Case no: COMPT/ LOK/ BD/112/2007) that I filed with Lokayukta Karnataka against the maladminstration and corruption inside Devarayanadurga State Forest.

In conservation,
Ameen

-------------------------------------

From
Ameen Ahmed
Tumakuru – 5721 01

To
The Lokayukta
Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Road
MS Building
Bangalore – 5600 01

Date: 16 October, 2007
Sir,

Sub: Complaint against maladministration and looting of public wealth in Devarayanadurga State Forest, Tumakuru Taluk

Under the preview of the existing Forest Conservation Act (1980) and also under the Honourable Supreme Court of India’s order dated 12/12/1996 in the Godavarman Thirumalpad vs Union of India case prior clearance has to be taken to carry any development activity in a forest or to fell trees. In Tumakuru’s Devarayanadurga and its surrounding state forests today the law of the land seems non-existent due to a dysfunctional forest department.

The following are specific complaints:
1) lllegal road
Inside the north boundary of the Devarayanadurga state forest (see # 1 in enclosed map), is a 8-feet wide cart track that connects Swandenahalli and Durgadahalli villages (see copy of original notification of Devarayanadurga Forest in enclosure 2). A couple of kilometres off this track lies a temple dedicated to Lord Rangaswamy, popularly known as Chinnaga Rangaswamy temple. Occasional devotees from Swandenahalli and nearby villages visit this temple within the forest boundaries and there is an annual ‘Jathra’ (religious gathering). Recently, the above track has recently been broadened (pictures enclosed) to accommodate tractors, vans, lorries and similar vehicles without permission from the Forest Department or the Government of India under Forest Conservation Act (1980). Though the road expansion has taken place in the name of temple, the reality is different. In June 2007, members of Tumakuru-based Wildlife Aware Nature Club (WANC) Sri. Guru Prasad (Guru) and Sri. Mallikarjun.M (Mallik) visited this region for bird watching and found to their shock that trees inside the forest were being felled, rocks quarried and being carried away out of the forest (pictures enclosed). On 12th June, 2007 Sri. Mallikarjun immediately complained in writing to the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), Tumakuru, along with pictures (copy of letter and acknowledgement enclosed). To find out if his letter had made any difference, Sri.Mallikarjun again went to Chinnagara betta on 9th Sep' 07. But, he saw four tree cutters in action without any fear. The forest wealth was flowing outside without any obstruction or probably even with full support of forest department. During this visit they found out that the Chinnagara betta road work had in fact been completed despite the complaint. Also as we write this letter to you, this illegal road work is continuing, trees are being cut, rocks being blasted, sand being illegally lifted and the forest being destroyed. We have information that the road work is being funded by a prominent politician from Tumkur and the work is being carried out by a contractor named Sri. Prakash of Byrenahalli in Tumakuru Taluk. The local forest officials are hand in glove with the forest looters to gain political favours from the politician funding this project.

2) Illegal power line
Apart from this, many mature trees have been felled on the road from Belagumba to Navodaya School (see # 2 in enclosed map) to lay a new power line (pictures enclosed). According to the Forest Conservation Act (1980) any development work inside a forest requires prior clearance from the Government of India. We have information that this work is being carried without the required official clearances. The forest department has not given written permission to fell the trees. We suspect the local forest officials to have granted the tree felling for monetary favours.

3) Illicit tree felling
Since 1997, hundreds of mature trees have been felled in Devarayanadurga and its nearby state forests. Even as we write this, many are being felled. The trees are first debarked clandestinely and let to die a natural death (pictures enclosed). Then they are felled in the name of removing dry wood (pictures enclosed). Trees are being ruthlessly felled here even during daytime. Even on informing the forest department about these events, it is taking no action. Among such places is the Girlakatte valley (see # 3 in enclosed map). In early and mid-90s, this valley had so many trees that it used to be dark even in summer when we used to walk on the path under the canopy of these trees. The same has happened with the canopy behind Rama Lakshmana trees on the 5th mile stone – Namadachelume road (see # 4 in enclosed map). The sad part is that the forest department is not even willing to stop those who are carrying away the felled trees (pictures enclosed).

4) The forest department is not monitoring the entry and exit of vehicles in these forests despite the forest having natural resources and trees worth hundreds of crores of rupees (pictures enclosed).

5) The forest department is hiding information regarding the illegal road and illegal power line and are not responding to complaints and request to provide information related to these two. Sri.Mallikarjun did not get any written response to his letter to the DCF dated 12th June 2007. He filed an application on 10th September 2007 with the forest department, seeking information on the above issues under the Right to Information Act (RTI). But despite the passing of deadline to provide the applicant with the information, the forest department has withheld the information (copy of RTI application and acknowledgement enclosed).

Note: The Superintendent of Police, Lokayukta Tumakuru accompanied myself and Sri.Mallikarjun to this illegal road on Friday, 11 October 2007. We kindly request you to speak to him to confirm our allegations.

Why save Devarayanadurga?
Sir, Tumakuru lies in the south-eastern part of Karnataka state and is among the driest regions of India. Every tree counts and every inch of forest matters, as it is crucial to conserving the region's water sources and tapering the hot summers. Devarayanadurga forest gives birth to tens of streams and feeds thousands of wells in the surrounding villages. The forest is the catchment area of two rivers Jaya and Mangali that are dammed at Irrakasandra Project and Teeta Dam at Goravanahalli. All these water bodies will dry up and cause untold misery and suffering to tens of thousands of villagers depending on them. Hence, it is crucial to save Devarayanadurga forest.

Thanking you.

Yours faithfully,

Ameen Ahmed

Encl:
1) Map of Devarayanadurga forests, from the 1:50,000 scale Survey of India 57 G/3 sheet.
2) Page from original notification of Devarayanadurga State forest showing no existence of any track from the Swandenahalli – Durgadahalli cart track to Chinnadga temple.
3) Pictures showing the illegally built road to Chinnaga temple inside Devarayanadurga forest boundaries and the illegal activities inside.
4) Complained by Sri.Mallikarjun M to the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), Tumakuru against the illegal road dated 12th June 2007.
5) Picture of mature trees felled illegally on the road from Belagumba to Navodaya School to lay a new power line.
6) Picture of trees being debarked clandestinely and let to die a natural death.
7) Picture of a tree felled by tree looters.
8) Picture of tree feller carrying away wood on the Oordigere-Belagumba main road.
9) Copy of application filed by Sri.Mallikarjun.M and the acknowledgement with the forest department, seeking information under the Right to Information Act (RTI) on 10th September 2007.
10) Picture of the wetlands that get filled by the forests of Devarayanadurga.
11) Story on the illegal road from The Hindu newspaper.

15 October, 2007

Tree looters feasting on Devarayanadurga jungles

Since 1997, hundreds of mature trees have been felled in Devarayanadurga and its nearby state forests.

Even as we write this, many are being felled. The trees are first debarked clandestinely and let to die a natural death.

A view of one of the half cut trees.

Then they are felled in the name of removing dry wood.


A felled tree besides the Namadachelume-Devarayanadurga main road.

Trees are being ruthlessly felled here even during daytime. Even on informing the forest department about these events, it is taking no action. Among such places is the Girlakatte valley. In early and mid-90s, this valley had so many trees that it used to be dark even in summer when we used to walk on the path under the canopy of these trees. The same has happened with the canopy behind Rama Lakshmana trees on the 5th mile stone – Namadachelume road.

The sad part is that the forest department is not even willing to stop those who are carrying away the felled trees.

A happy tree man carrying away wood from jungle on his bicycle, on the Belagumba-Oordigere main road.

06 October, 2007

Revenue forests of Devarayanadurga Hills face destruction

The above picture is of the forests in revenue land besides Devarayanadurga village adjoining Devarayanadurga State Forest in Tumkur Taluk.
Background:
Devarayanadurga State Forest is about 42 sq. km large. There are many revenue lands adjoining the boundaries of this state forest that have forests in them. Though unprotected, rare wildlife like panthers, sloth bears and Yellowthroated Bulbuls thrive in them and they are the source of many streams and water courses. 
According to the H'ble Supreme Court's judgement in the Godavaraman Thirumalpad vs Union of India, any Government land that has tree cover is a 'deemed forest'. Nature lovers of Tumakuru want the Government of Karnataka to declare these 'revenue' forests as Reserve Forest using its powers under section 4 of Karnataka Forest Act (1963). Please read the below release on this issue.

Press Release
The Tumkauru Division of Karnataka Forest Department had stated in its reply to an application by wildlife activist Ameen Ahmed under Right to Information Act that no forests exist in the revenue land adjoining the boundaries of the State Forests of Devarayanadurga, Panditanhalli and Ramadevara Betta. This information is misleading. The Survey of India Sheet No: 57 G/3 of 1:50,000 scale clearly shows that there are numerous Revenue lands that have “fairly dense scrub jungle” around Kambakallu betta, Hosati kallu betta, Chinnagara betta, Devarayanadurga hill, Talavara betta and Sigekoppalu betta. Satellite images are available on the internet for every one to see that the information provided by the forest department is wrong.

The Revenue forests adjoining Devarayanadurga State Forest boundaries are in great demand for quarrying and hence the forest department is under pressure not to treat these as forest areas. WANC takes serious objection to this. WANC urges Government of Karnataka to invoke its authority under section 3 and 4 of the Karnataka Forest Act (1963) and declare these as reserve forests by retaining the legitimate rights of the local villagers over these lands. According to the Supreme Court judgement in the Godavarman Thirumalmad vs Union of India case, any forest even under control of revenue department is a ‘deemed forest’ and should be protected.

Apart from being the catchment area of hundreds of streams and many lakes/tanks, the forests of Devarayanadurga hills - both within the boundaries of Devarayanadurga State Forest as well as the Revenue forests adjoining it, are home to rare and endangered wildlife like tiger, leopard, deer, sloth bear and more than 250 species of birds. Among them is a rare and endemic bird species – the Yellow Throated Bulbul (Pncnonotus xantholaemus). This bird is found only in a few areas of south India including Devarayanadurga forest and no where else on earth.

Since the forest department is not protecting the revenue forests they are being destroyed at a fast pace. On 21 September 2007, a survey was being done on the road from Devarayanadurga Village that leads to Police Wireless Station and Yoganarasimha Swamy Temple on top of the Devarayanadurga Hill. The surveyors informed WANC members that the survey was being done as per a private electronic company’s plans to widen the road. This patch of hill is visited by people from all over the world to see the Yellowthroated Bulbul, which is found there in good numbers. This is one of the few patches in entire Eastern Karnataka, where wild Hanuman Langurs can be seen roaming freely. Any widening of the road will have a direct impact on the area’s wildlife, as it will involve uprooting shrubs, thorny plants and small stones and boulders, apart from the noise pollution. The existing traffic on the stretch of road that is being widened does not warrant it to be widened.

WANC has written to the Managing Director of the company requesting it not to go ahead with this proposed road expansion plan. Already Tumakuru Town has suffered a lot from destruction of trees in the name of road widening and the same should not be repeated in Devarayanadurga Hills. Simultaneously, WANC has urged the Deputy Commissioner, Tumakuru to stop this roadwork as it amounts to violation of the Honourable Supreme Court of India's judgement in the Godavarman Thirumalpad vs Union of India case. WANC has also sought the intervention of the PCCF (Wildlife) of Karnataka and the Conservator of Forests, Hassan Circle to direct the DCF, Tumakuru to stop this road as it is a violation of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).
Survey of India Sheet No: 57 G/3 of 1:50,000 showing “fairly dense scrub jungle” in the Revenue land around Kambakallu betta, Hosati kallu betta, Chinnagara betta, Devarayanadurga hill, Talavara betta and Sigekoppalu betta.
This road leading to the PWD Bungalow/Police wireless station from Devarayanadurga village/Namada Chelume is being expanded destroying the wildlife habitat around it.
The slopes of Devarayanadurga hill clothed by forests belonging to the revenue department. In the backdrop are the lakes that are filled by streams that flow out of these forests.
A langur in the revenue forests adjoining the boundaries of Devarayanadurga State Forest in the north, just below the Yoganarasimha Temple. Below is a cropped close-up of the langur in the above image

News links:
http://kannadaprabha.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=KPD20071018015638&Title=District+Page&lTitle=%C1%DBd%C0+%C8%DB%7D%E6%25&Topic=0&dName=%7D%DA%DF%C8%DA%DFO%DA%E0%C1%DA%DF&Dist=4

RTI replies on forest offences etc, Sep 07

Dear WANCers,

Please find below the responses recieved by Ameen's querries filed with the DCF under the RTI in Aug 07.

Some of the responses are very interesting. It has been replied that only 11 dead Jalari trees have been removed from the whole of Tumkur Division since 1997, while it is also replied that 12 Jalari trees have been removed from Devarayanadurga alone during the same period.

Also it has been replied that there has been no Eucalyptus removal from the entire Tumkur Division from 1997 to 2003. But details have been provided for the eucalyptus removed for 1997-98 and 2000-2001. Are you confused? Read on....

Regards,
Ameen


Replies to information asked by Shri.Ameen Ahamed, Ghouse Buildings, Horpet Main Road, Tumkur

Sl No. Information asked Reply
1. How many tree-felling cases have been booked since 1997 till date in the above forests?
A) Devarayanadurga 32
B) Panditanahalli 02
C) R.D Betta 03

2. How many of these cases have been proved in the court?
All compoundable offence cases have been compounded as per power vested with the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Tumkur. The material involved in those cases either released after recovery of value, or confiscated to Government and sold in Public Auction. Revenue remitted to Government.

3. How many forest offence cases including illegal quarrying, illegal sand lifting and encroachment cases have been booked since 1997 till date in the above forests?
Illegal Quarrying: Nil
Illegal sand lifting: 33 cases
Encroachment: Nil

4. How many of these cases have been proved in the court?
All the sand lifting cases have been compounded and released.

5. How many dead trees have been removed since 1997 in the above forests?
Jalari trees 12
Teak 01
Tamarind Tree 01

6. How many Eucalyptus trees have been removed since 1997 in the above forests?
Eucalyptus trees have been extracted by M/s KSFIC, Bangalore. The number of trees
not available. However extent is given below


1997-98 – 74 Ha
2000-01 – 101 Ha
2003-04 – 195 Ha

7. How many trees have been felled for road widening since 1997 in the above forests?
Nil

8. Does the forest department have records of the area of forest cover under Revenue Department adjoining the boundaries of these forests? If yes, how many hectares of forest is controlled by the revenue department?
No forest area is under Revenue Department.
No forest is being controlled by the Revenue Department.


Signed –
Assistant Conservator of Forests &
TA to Deputy Conservator of Forests
Tumkur Division, Tumkur and ASPIO

Replies to information asked by Shri.Ameen Ahamed, Ghouse Buildings, Horpet Main Road, Tumkur

Sl No. Information asked Reply
1. How many forest offence cases including illegal quarrying, illegal sand lifting and encroachment cases have been booked since 1997 from the state and reserve forests of Tumkur Territorial Division?
1) Tree felling 637
2) Illegal Quarrying 50
3) Sand lifting 65
4) Encroachment 274


2. How many of these cases have been proved in the court?
All compoundable offence cases have been compounded and the material confiscated to
Government have been sold in public Auction and revenue remitted to Government
except 71A cases and sandalwood cases.

71 A cases are being tried by the authorized officer and Deputy Conservator of
Forests, Tumkur.

Sandalwood cases have been referred to the concerned jurisdiction Judicial courts.

3. How many dead trees have been removed since 1997 from the state and reserve forests of Tumkur Territorial Division?
Tamarind: 01
Jalari: 11
Teak: 01

4. How many Eucalyptus trees have been removed from the state and reserve forests of Tumkur Territorial Division?
In Tumkur Territorial Division since 1997 to 2003 no Eucalyptus trees were removed in State Forest and Reserve Forest. However since 2003 to 2007 KSFIC have extracted the Eucalyptus trees in the State Forest and Reserve Forest. is as follows:-

2003-04 230.00 Ha
2004-05 1527.00 Ha
2005-06 451.00 Ha
2006-07 81.00 Ha

5. How many trees have been felled for road widening since 1997 from the state and reserve forests of Tumkur Territorial Division?
No trees have been felled for road widening since 1997 to date inside State and Reserved Forest of Tumkur Territorial Division

6. How much money has been spent n roadside tree planting since 1997 inside the state and reserve forests in Tumkur Territorial Division? Nil

7. Does the Tumkur Territorial Division maintain satellite images of the division's forest cover? If yes, what is the period of updating these records?
Not maintained
Not applicable

Signed –
Assistant Conservator of Forests &
TA to Deputy Conservator of Forests
Tumkur Division, Tumkur and ASPIO