Bengaluru: The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has put the ball in Karnataka’s court on creating the sixth Tiger Reserve in the state. The Authority has completed all the formalities for upgrading the status of Kudremukh, and now it’s up to the state to declare it as the Tiger Reserve or maintain its current status. Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the final approval had been given to upgrade the Kudremukh National Park.
The State Forest Department, however, clarified that there has been no change in the state government’s stand, and that it will continue to remain a National Park. “The state is the final authority in declaring an area a Tiger Reserve, and the state passed a resolution in the Assembly two years ago, opposing the status for Kudremukh forests,” a senior forester said.
For years, wildlife experts have been fighting for the Tiger Reserve tag for Kudremukh forest, whose ecology is unique. Spread over 600 sqkm of high altitude forest, which is a right mix of shola, grasslands and semi ever green forest patches, has shown considerable increase in tiger and prey population. Besides large cats like tigers and leopards, Kudremukh is also home for the critically endangered lion-tailed macaque.
“The state government lacks imagination when it comes to conserving the natural resources. The Kudremukh forest was under pressure due to mining, and now several natural streams are being diverted for agricultural purposes which is killing water source in Kudremukh. Also, the Naxalites have raised the issue of relocation of families from Kudremukh, though the rebels have no support from these tribals. At least 400 families are ready to take the voluntary relocation package offered by the state and union governments and move out of the forests, but their relocation has been pending for a few years now. If the Tiger Reserve status is accorded to Kudremukh, relocation of tribals can be completed within a year,” said a wildlife expert.
Tiger biologist Dr K. Ullas Karanth said that unique habitats such as Kudremukh should be protected at all cost. “Saving tiger habitats does not only mean creating tiger areas in dry deciduous forests. The idea of tiger conservation is to safeguard different tiger habitats ranging from mangroves of Sundarbans to high-altitude forests of Kudremukh.”
Mr Praveen Bhargav, Trustee, Wildlife First Organisation, said that unfortunately, a vicious misinformation campaign has been launched to create fear among the local people that they will lose rights on their land after the area is declared a Tiger Reserve.
“This is not true, and the question of evicting people does not arise. Those who like to relocate voluntarily will be offered packages from the state and central governments,” he said....