Reported byLand Conflict Watch
Last updated on
January 7, 2021
On July 2, 2020, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change declared a kilometre-long radius around the boundary of the Kudremukh National Park (KNP) an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ). Environmentalists state that even though the order is in the best interests of the KNP as it has provided a habitat for endangered flora and fauna, it has caused fear among the indigenous communities living in the area. Close to 60 villages and 108 revenue sectors from the three districts of Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Chikkamagaluru are set to be affected. A resident of Idu village in Udupi's Karkala tehsil told LCW that some 45 lakh people will be impacted by the decision. In the 316 square kilometres of the ESZ, large-scale industrial activities, such as commercial mining; quarrying; sawmilling, establishing, maintaining and managing pollutant industries; and installation of major hydropower plants are now prohibited. Other commercial activities in the affected villages spread across the three districts have also been banned. The indigenous communities fear losing their livelihood sources. They also fear that the price of land under the ESZ might come down and worry that infrastructural development in the area might stop. Ramachandra Bhat, a member of Bengaluru-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), told LCW that the forest department in the state has already stopped widening National Highway 169, which passes through the national park and connects it to other important areas in the state. He added that families living in the vicinity of the park have no electricity connection, and since mobile towers are not allowed to be constructed, they do not have access to the internet. Bhat further mentioned that the local people did receive many subsidies from the government and help from non-profits to install solar lighting, but as the weather stays cloudy most of the time, solar power has not been of much help. P. Rutran, deputy conservation officer of Kudremukh wildlife division, told LCW that efforts are needed to protect the environment from indiscriminate industrialisation in the area but also assured that the indigenous communities need not worry. This declaration does not change the land ownership of the people in the region. People living inside the zone cannot be evacuated. They can continue to live there and pursue their regular activities. There is no restriction on power lines, drinking water pipelines, roads, bridges, farming and horticultural practices by the local communities," he added. On October 15, the Malenadu Raithara Hitharakshana Vedike (Malenadu Farmers Welfare Committee), NR Pura tehsil, Chikkamagaluru district, held a peaceful protest against the ESZ. The residents of the tehsil closed their shops in support. Several politicians were also present at the protest. The farmer leaders expressed outrage over the state and Central governments move on the Bhadra tiger project in Chikkamagaluru and the declaration of the ESZ around KNP. They warned that they would intensify their protest if their demands were ignored. More than 3,000 people participated in the protest.
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State forest department
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