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HomekarnatakaBoundary bungle: 50 years on, Karnataka's Shettihalli Sanctuary has no ESZ cover

Boundary bungle: 50 years on, Karnataka's Shettihalli Sanctuary has no ESZ cover

Bengaluru: Nearly 50 years after it was notified, the Shettihalli Wildlife Sanctuary in Shivamogga is yet to get the necessary protection of an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) as mistakes in the identification of the boundary have posed a hindrance to its conservation.

The draft notification declaring the sanctuary was issued in 1974 and the final notification in 1977. While the notification put the extent of the boundary at 395.60 sq km, the boundaries in the document inflated the area to 695.60 sq km.

Efforts to fix it by revising the boundary and rationalising the extent by 300 sq km have led to concerns, with the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) urging the state to declare a similar extent of land as the buffer zone of the Bhadra tiger reserve.

Meanwhile, uncertainty over the boundary has led to confusion, with officials unable to take definitive action against encroachments in the core and buffer areas. But the strict rules applicable to the sanctuary have led to animosity among villages erroneously included in the sanctuary. For instance, about 30 small villages that had come up in the sanctuary in the 1970s have now gone up to 72, taking the land under encroachment from 616.18 hectares to about 2,000 hectares. While human interference started after the government failed to rehabilitate those displaced by the construction of Linganamakki reservoir, activists believe the commercialisation of green spaces over the last three decades has emerged as a big threat to the wildlife habitat.

“The notification did have errors which led to villages and even a section of Shivamogga city becoming part of the sanctuary. The government has all the resources and enough funds to rehabilitate the families inside Shettihalli sanctuary and also notify alternative 300 sq km of forest to ensure wildlife corridors are unaffected. It is the lack of political will that has led to delays. The lack of an eco-sensitive zone has led to increased commercial activities in the buffer areas,” said Sagar-based activist Akhilesh Chipli.

Last month, the NBWL asked the state government to add Chordenahalli state forest and Kaitotlu mini forest to the Bhadra reserve’s bufferzone as part of the process to cut the extent of Shettihalli sanctuary.

Sources in the department said the process will further delay the rationalisation of Shettihalli sanctuary. “Declaring an area as a buffer zone is a long-drawn process. Lack of clarity on the boundary will only make it difficult to take up effective conservation measures and prevent encroachment,” a source said.

In September, the department requested the NBWL to speed up the rationalisation while assuring that discussions will be held with villages in the limits of Chordenahalli and Kaitotlu forests to expedite the process of declaring buffer zone.

(Published 22 October 2023, 21:04 IST)

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