By M.K. Ashoka
Bengaluru, Sep 25 (IANS): Karnataka has one of the richest and largest forest resources in the country. However, the fast receding forest cover due to urbanization and development has aggravated human-animal conflict to levels not seen before.
In the man-animal conflict, it was only the elephant menace which had surfaced in Hassan and Mysuru districts of south Karnataka. Today, leopards are found prowling in cities, foxes are coming out in packs and attacking people, there have been tiger attacks. Elephant attacks have also become common.
There have been demands to cull elephant calves to reduce their numbers. Minister for Labour Shivaram Hebbar clarified that there is no such proposal before them and the government would not even think about it.
President of the Environmental Protection Committee Bhanu Mohan told IANS that she has taken part in elephant and tiger census exercises. They had gone 20 to 25 kilometres into the jungles for this.
"As far as you can see there are only scrubs which cannot support elephants and leopards. Only rabbits and small animals can live there," she explains.
Bhanu Mohan says that the population pressure on forests is leading to the loss of forest cover. Encroachments can be seen in the forests of Bandipur, Nagarahole, Biligiriranganabetta, Chamarajanagar in south Karnataka, mostly done by politicians, she adds.
Another important factor is that animals are not finding water sources inside the forests, she says.
Environmentalist Neeraj Kamath, convenor, Uttishta Bharatha, told IANS that wildlife will flourish only when there is least or no human intervention in the wildlife sanctuaries.
Any development which affects the natural habitat of wildlife must not be taken up and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) must strictly turn down any such requests, he says.
Kamath says the interests of adivasis who are part of such an ecosystem must be taken care of, they must be first provided with all basic, job and education facilities and then relocated.
The traditional pathways of the animals have to be protected areas and illegal activities in such areas must be stopped with an iron hand, he underlines.
Another environmentalist Vidyut Shashidhar states that the NGT is handicapped. "We have written many letters, the pressure is such that they respond only to big projects. The head office is located in Chennai city in Tamil Nadu. The NGT must establish its unit here," he says. The central office is located in New Delhi, making it accessible to environmentalists and nature lovers, he adds.
The forest cover in the state is receding at an alarming rate. Earlier the forest cover was more, then it came down to 50 per cent and today only 30 per cent is remaining. The destruction of lakhs of trees has also changed rain patterns in Kerala and Karnataka.