SUBJECT :Wildlife enthusiasts, experts and civilians who participated in a stakeholders’ meet on Monday to debate the recent proposal by the Karnataka government to establish private forests, were wary about the move benefiting wildlife and forest conservation. 

Bengaluru, June 26, 2018: Wildlife enthusiasts, experts and civilians who participated in a stakeholders’ meet on Monday to debate the recent proposal by the Karnataka government to establish private forests, were wary about the move benefiting wildlife and forest conservation. While some felt it would allow large landholders to make money from private forests in the name of eco-tourism, others said it won’t benefit the local people. The forest department, however, maintained that private reserves next to forests would help tackle human-animal conflict and restore wildlife corridors. Department officials said they would redraft the proposal based on suggestions from the meet.

The Karnataka Private Conservancy Rules, 2018 — a draft of which was recently released by the Karnataka forest department — allows private persons (or consortiums) owning at least 100 acres of land adjoining notified forests to establish private forests. As per rules, 5% of land under private forests can be used to construct buildings for eco-tourism and related activities.

BM Nagappa, a wildlife warden from Mandya, said the move would only benefit those with large land parcels and money. “I don’t see locals or wildlife benefiting from this,” he added. Prasanna Kumar from Bengaluru Rural district said management of private forests would be a headache. “The move will only legalise benami land belonging to influential people around forests,” he added.

Wildlife biologist Sanjay Gubbi said ecological evaluation of similar moves to tackle wildlife conflict and other conservation-related issues has to be analysed before coming up with a new one. “Will the move really help tackle human-animal conflict or will it only shift the barrier of conflict by a few metres?” he asked.

Some resort owners who participated in the meeting said the move is a good one, provided the forest department relaxes some norms on utilization of the reserve. Some retired forest officials, too, felt the move is more practical. “Once lands next to protected areas are declared forests, all forest protection laws will come into force there. This will help in conservation. Meanwhile, ownership of land will still be with the land owner, and he can benefit from eco-tourism activities there,” said a former forest conservator.

C Jayaram, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), said they have received suggestions both for and against the proposal. “Based on the suggestions, we will redraft the proposal and send it to the government. Our intention is to reduce human-animal conflicts and ensure wildlife conservation benefits. Every year, the state witnesses several human and animal deaths due to conflict,” he added.


Source: Times of India