Largescale religious activities were allowed inside Gundre wildlife range last weekend causing disturbance to animals.
On Sunday, a congregation of about 30,000 devotees descended on Kabini backwaters in Gundre wildlife range which is home to 500-600 elephants. What was left was after the fair was littered waste and ashes of a forest fire. However, the Forest Department said the fire was not linked to the event.
People came for an annual fair bringing huge vessels, water cans and gas cylinders in tractors to prepare food. The tiger core area became a hub of noisy activities with vehicular movements and honking. Food packets, plastic tumblers and bottles were strewn all over the place.
Wildlife activists said more than 25,000-30,000 people visited a dargah inside the wildlife range on the occasion. Vehicles were allowed without any control and stalls were set up temporarily, they said.
The visitors’ activities resulted in fire and more than 300 acres of prime forest was burnt, they said.
Wildlife activist G Veeresh said religious places should be shifted out of tiger reserves. They should be banned in core areas as they cause major disturbances to habitats and movement of wild animals, he said. However, Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director T Heeralal said permission was given for the event with restrictions.
“We allowed the activity keeping the religious sentiments in mind. However, we had imposed restrictions on the entry of vehicles and controlled their movements,” he said, adding that cooking was not allowed in the core area and it was done outside.
“Till last year, they used to do cooking and hold other activities. But the dargah committee agreed to bring food and water for distribution to pilgrims. We managed to keep the festivities a low key affair,” he said.
Heeralal added that the fire was not caused by the festivities and it was due to “an entirely different reason”.
“Some 5-6 hectares of forest was burnt on the same day. The fire started at 3.30 pm and we managed to douse it by 5.30 pm. Although we imposed a lot of restrictions, it was not possible to control the situation totally as it was a religious matter”, he said.
This season, the core areas of Bandipur Tiger Reserve witnessed continual religious activities.
Courtesy : New Indian Express