Supreme Court comes to aid of Uttarakhand foresters

Dehradun: The Uttarakhand forest department has more than one reason to thank the Supreme Court for banning tourist activity in the core tiger reserves.

While it may become meaning ful to prevent if not stop altogether poachers entry to the core areas of the Corbett National Park, which if late has been under a cloud for the number of tigers poached in it, but it will also stop the use of the illegal road constructed through the core area of the Park for use by resort owners.

The Uttarakhand Forest department had come under a heat for the illegal construction of the road, as neither was any NOC taken for its construction, now was any officer willing to accept the responsibility for having allowed the construction of the road. Even as the buck was being passed, there was so much pressure by politicians that no enquiry was ordered into its construction.

As all non-forest activity has been banned in the core areas of the Park area, forest authorities here feel that the road will no longer be used by tourists who cross the core and buffer zones of the Park to reach the numerous resorts that have come in the vicinity and are owned by influential people, including a minister in The Bahuguna government in this small mountain state.

In fact, department sources here admitted albeit on conditions of anonymity, that the road had been made to also facilitate a lease holder given angling rights over a prime stretch of the Ram Ganga river. “The angling facility was given to the party free of cost”, they maintained.

They said that even the agreement that had been made between the party and the state forest department and the lessee for free angling rights was heavily in favour of the private party. “It has been mentioned that the forest department will not cancel the lease and the agreement states that should it be cancelled the forest department will have to pay adequate compensation”, they claimed.

Sources alleged that it was because of this clause that the state forest department was dragging its feet over cancellation of the angling lease, despite understanding fully well that it had been given as a special favour to the lessee. “In fact it was also brought to the notice opf the higher ups, that had it not been for the angling lease, the road too would not have come up in the core Corbett Park area”, they pointed out.

But now with the Supreme Court orders, the forest department feels that it share of problems are over, at least till the time the apex court orders are in force, as the lessee has no way to get anglers to angle at his leased river stretch, ofcourse unless he brings them in choppers, which may not be that profitable for him.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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