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18 October, 2007

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.

1 comment:

  1. Some other important issues like

    1.Survey of the forest area by TVS Electronics Limited for laying a road

    2. Failure of the Tumkur University to return the forest land measuring 75 acres.

    3. Continuation of Navodaya School in the forest area.

    should also be probed by the Lokayukta.

    ReplyDelete

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