Intervention by the courts and conservationists has stopped the destruction of a critical tiger corridor in the Western Ghats, where a private firm was permitted to set up windmills by the Karnataka forest department in violation or rules.
Recently, the government withdrew the permission given to a Bangalore-based hydropower company to install windmills to generate 25 megawatts of power in the Moorkangudda Reserved Forests in Sakleshpur Taluk of Hassan district.
Moorkangudda acts as a critical link between Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary and Kudremukh National Park. It is the habitat of endangered wildlife, including the tiger, leopard, wild dog, gaur, sambar and several others protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The area has grassland, shola forests and matches Bababudangiri area in its natural beauty.
Despite concerns raised by Karnataka’s energy department in its order that “the area falls within forest area and that it was unlikely to get forest clearance”, the forest department had permitted the power company to start testing work.
However, in response to a public interest litigation filed by Prashant Yavagal and Western Ghats Environment Forum (WP 9333/2009), the forest department withdrew the permission for extension of the testing period.
“This is a positive step by the forest department to save this excellent tiger habitat. Though this area could have low densities of large carnivores, it acts as a critical corridor between southern and northern Western Ghats,” said wildlife biologist Sanjay Gubbi.
Last year, the forest department had proposed the merger of a few reserved forests in this area into the Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, including Moorkangudda, due to its high ecological value.
“In the interest of long-term tiger conservation efforts in the state it is critically important to connect all protected areas through existing corridors or else once these corridors are lost, the concept of source-sink model for tiger conservation will be obsolete,” Gubbi adds.
Karnataka has the highest tiger density in the country, but to retain this pride the state will have to take proactive steps in stopping diversion of important forest areas to large-scale development, conservationists say. Similarly, the state should notify these areas as part of adjoining protected areas, they add.
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