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Environmentalist wants administration of temple in Bandipur Tiger Reserve to be with forest department

The government had handed over the administration of the Beladakuppe Sri Mahadeshwara Swamy temple Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department.

Bengaluru, temple, bandipur tiger reserveBeladakuppe temple fair in Bandipur Tiger Reserve. (Express File Photo)
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Environmentalist wants administration of temple in Bandipur Tiger Reserve to be with forest department
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After the Karnataka government handed over the administration of the Beladakuppe Sri Mahadeshwara Swamy temple in the core critical tiger habitat of Bandipur Tiger Reserve to Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department, a wildlife conservationist has requested the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to issue directions to Additional Chief Secretary, Forest; Ecology and Environment Department; Chief Wildlife Warden; and Field Director, Project Tiger, Bandipur to take action and retain the temple administration with the Forest Department.

While the government order issued by the office of the Revenue Department (Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department) dated December 2, 2022 states that the decision was taken on the request of the Forest Department, senior officials within the department confirmed to The Indian Express that the decision was a “jolt to conservation”. The government wants to develop the temple as a tourist spot and more revenue could be generated. The order recently became viral on social media.

“I just hope that the forest department will get the order revoked. How could anybody allow developmental activities for a temple located in the critical tiger habitat of the reserve?” a forest official said, on the condition of anonymity.

“Shri Himavad Gopalaswamy Temple which is in Gundlupet Taluk, the administration of the temple is being carried out by Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department. In the same manner, if the administration of the Beladakuppe Temple is also undertaken by the government and regulated by Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department, the government could get revenue and also it is possible to implement the Forest and Wildlife Protection laws strictly,” the order said.

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“Principal chief conservator of forests (head of forest force) has proposed that as the temple is in Core Critical Tiger Habitat of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, it is important to ensure that no disturbance is caused to free movement of wildlife as per the Wildlife (Protection) Act. Therefore, the area of the Temple has to be handed over to the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department by the Forest Department as per the Forest (Conservation) Act and Wildlife (Protection) Act,” the order stated.

In a letter to the NTCA, wildlife conservationist Giridhar Kulkarni said, “Issue immediate directions to Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue Department/Forest, Ecology and Environment Department, Karnataka to take necessary action to withdraw the Order issued by the Under Secretary, Revenue Department (Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department) dated 02.12.2022 ordering handing over the administration of Beladakuppe Sri Mahadeshwara Swamy temple in Bandipur Tiger Reserve to Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department which is in contrary to the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act.”

“Issue immediate directions to Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue Department/Forest, Ecology and Environment Department, Karnataka, Chief Wildlife Warden, Karnataka, Deputy Commissioner, Mysuru District and Field Director, Project Tiger, Bandipur to maintain the status quo on the matter till the matter is considered in detail and decision is taken by the NTCA. Issue directions to Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment Department, Karnataka, Chief Wildlife Warden, Karnataka and Field Director, Project Tiger, Bandipur to take action to retain the temple administration with the Forest Department. Carry out a site appraisal on this matter at the earliest to ascertain the facts and take appropriate decisions in the larger interest of wildlife,” Kulkarni said.

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With regards to the Beladakuppe temple fair held annually inside the tiger reserve, Kulkarni in October 2022 asked the NTCA, forest department and the district administration of Mysuru to impose necessary restrictions to reduce the impact of the fair on the wildlife. The NTCA on November 11, 2022, sought a factual status report from the Karnataka forest department on the measures it took for the conduct of the temple fair. However, to date, the Bandipur Tiger Reserve administration has not submitted the report.

Recently, the Saragur police, falling under the Mysuru division, in its letter to Kulkarni said they did not allow the entry of private vehicles or the use of loudspeakers at the venue.

First published on: 24-01-2023 at 20:27 IST
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