SUBJECT :Karnataka may soon have its own private wildlife reserves around Bandipur/Nagarhole/BRT or Kali/Bhimgad or Bhadra Tiger Reserves 

A private forest conservancy around a resort | G Veeresh

Bengaluru, June 20, 2018: Karnataka may soon have its own private wildlife reserves around Bandipur/Nagarhole/BRT or Kali/Bhimgad or Bhadra Tiger Reserves. While forest officials explain that this is to give more space to wildlife in a shrinking area and reduce man-animal conflicts, wildlife activists have decried the idea saying this is nothing but providing a back-door entry to resort owners and realtors owning land on the fringes of protected areas.

In this regard, the draft rules, which have been formulated, is being taken up for discussion and finalization in the coming week. The rules for setting up of ‘private wildlife reserves’ have been framed under the purview of Section 39 of Karnataka Forest Rules, 1963 and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

The Karnataka Private Conservancy Rules, 2018 will allow individuals or consortium of people owning land (minimum 100 acres) around or along protected areas (PA) to form ‘Wildlife Private Conservancy’. However, 5% of this area can be utilised for construction of buildings (resorts/hotels/homestays) for the purpose of eco-tourism/co-activities while rest of the area will be reserved for conservation of flora and fauna.

All forest, wildlife and environment laws and rules will be applicable in these private reserves. However, in the event of any damage/attacks caused by wildlife to life and property in these reserves, neither the owner, employees nor their guests will be entitled to any compensation or ex-gratia payment.

Private reserve management

For the management of private wildlife reserves, a management committee will be formed which will be responsible for conserving, maintaining and managing the reserve. This committee will, in turn, advise the chief wildlife warden on all such issues. The committee will comprise three members — owner of the private wildlife reserve, a wildlife conservationist and the jurisdictional forest officer not below the rank of an RFO.Regulating its own procedures and its quorum, the management committee shall prepare its own management plan (as per MoEF guidelines) and also select/appoint its chief executive.

Mixed reaction

Even as there is a mixed opinion on the issue of permitting private conservancies in the state, the forest department has called for wide-ranging discussions on June 25. Forest officials, former PCCFs, State Wildlife Board members, wildlife experts/organizations, resort owners have been invited to discuss the draft rules.

Forest officials, preferring anonymity, say although the idea may be good, implementation will be extremely tough. “Since space is shrinking for wildlife year after year, they are spilling over to human habitations. And this may help in increasing the habitat for wildlife but management of such private reserves will be very tough, adhering to three important laws,” an official said.

Type of Land for Inclusion

Agriculture, horticulture, plantation crop lands and other landscape areas can be brought under private conservancy and declared as ‘private forests.’

Dos and Don’ts

  • Entry to reserves will need permit
  • Permit not exceeding 15 days
  • Entrance fee to be fixed by committee
  • Any breach in conditions liable for punishment
  • Forest officer will take action on offences
  • No compensation/payment for wildlife attacks
  • No night safari/flashlights permitted
  • Owner responsible for wildlife protection
  • Jurisdictional forest officer to have free access
  • No grazing, dairy, poultry, piggery activities, etc.

Source: New Indian Express