Petition to recover encroached land along Cauvery
To, Date: 04/03/2014
Thiru. T.P. Rajesh, IAS
Thiru Ulaganathan, IFS
Conservator of Forests
Thiru Praveen P Nair, IAS
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society (KANS) is a wildlife NGO registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975. We have been actively working with the Hosur Forest Division (Hosur FD) for the last 5 ½ years on various issues pertaining to wildlife conservation and related matters.
One such issue has been a religious congregation of thousands of people at a place called Dabguli, which is located on the banks of the Cauvery river in Urigam range. We had initially noticed a large amount of waste at this place during a bio-diversity survey that KANS was carrying out in the Hosur FD in 2009-10. We met the organisers, who had been holding this festival from around 2007-08. In 2011, we convinced them to shift from using silver-lined plates to eco-friendly leaf plates. In 2012, with active assistance from the Hosur FD and Police, we began frisking the visitors for liquor and plastic.
This year the festival was held on February 1st and 2nd and the Hosur FD mobilised a large contingent of Foresters, Guards and Watchers, drawn from Denkanikottai, Anchetty and Urigam ranges, to manage the crowd. KANS would like to thank Mr. Ulaganathan (DFO, Hosur FD and CF,Dharmapuri) for taking up this initiative and for personally monitoring this activity the entire day.
KANS would like to draw your attention to some concerns pertaining to this festival.
Majority of the visitors have utter disregard for forests and for the jurisdiction of the forest department.
- Around 230 vehicles (auto-rickshaws, cars,tempos, tractors, buses etc.) were counted at the Manjukondapalli check-post on the first day. An equal, if not more, number of two-wheelers also passed through the check-post. The vehicle density increased from evening onwards till mid-night. This is despite the Forest Department banning entry into the forests after 6.30 pm.
- From previous years, we have noticed that nearly 4-5 tractor loads of wood is collected from the forests for cooking, without permission from the Forest Department. Also, such uncontrolled removal of wood defeats the intention of activities carried out by the Forest Department such as creation of fodder plots, afforestation etc.
- No permission has been taken from the Forest Department for conducting the festival at this scale, which is conducted not just within the temple premises, but spills onto a much larger area.
- The temple itself has grown and additional permanent and semi-permanent structures have been built in encroached government land. The organisers have plans to re-build the temple in a grander scale.
- The forest road leading from Belpatti village to Dabaguli APC has regularly been levelled to ease the vehicle movement, not just during this festival, but throughout the year. There is an increase in crowd visiting Dabguli ever since restrictions have been imposed in Mutatti in Karnataka due to it being included in Cauvery WLS. This was claimed by one of the organisers, who said that he was happy that more people are visiting Dabguli.
JCBs are used for levelling the road, without Forest Department permission.
- The waste generated during the festival are collected and burnt in large pits dug in the river bank. The remaining waste (paper, plastic, glass etc.) and the remains of the burnt/partly-burnt waste gradually finds its way into the river. Since there are no sanitation facilities within the temple premises, the visitors (thousands of them) relieve themselves in the river and in the forest. These pollute the air, soil and water and thereby severly effecting the river ecology. Also, this is same polluted water that is drawn downstream for the Hogenekal drinking water project.
- Even on days other than the festival, the temple is open and music is played by the family living at the temple, thereby permanently driving away wildlife from this part of the Reserve Forest (RF).
This part of the forest is very important because,
- The entire stretch of 40kms of the Cauvery river in the Hosur Forest Division is inviolate, except for Dabguli.
- The areas between Uganiyam and Dabguli are prime-habitat for the Grizzled Giant Squirrel.
- HFD has dug EPTs all along the northern boundary with the intention of diverting the movement of elephants towards Cauvery. So, it is vital that the forests around Cauvery are left undisturbed, else there will be cases of Human-elephant conflict coming from these areas also in the future.
- Increasing numbers of Tigers are being sighted in the Cauvery WLS in Karnataka in the ranges exactly opposite to Dabguli. So, there is a very high possibility of Tigers moving into Melagiris in the coming years.
With so much at stake, we cannot allow Dabguli to turn into a popular, dirty, noisy pilgrimage center.
The Kestur RF notification (Fort ST. George Gazette No 137, dated:09.03.1887) gives Right of way to a width not exceeding six yards in width and is allowed only for men, cattle and pack animals over the path from Kestur to Dabbaguli. Hence vehicle entry can be banned or restricted.
The Bilikal RF notification (Fort ST. George Gazette No 341, dated:23.05.1887) specifies an area of 100 yards by 5 yards for the temple. Therefore, the remaining structures can be easily demolished by the Forest Department. There is a Supreme Court ruling (SLP No. 8519/2006) which does not permit construction of religious structures in public places and has directed the District Collector to take action on unauthorized structures already in place. The RF notification also states that for organising the assembly of people at Dabguli, a notice ought to be given to the Forest Officer. Since no such notices are currently being given to the Forest Department, all the festivals happening at Dabguli can be termed as illegal and hence banned.
The Tamil Nadu Forest Act, 1882 and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 provide absolute protection to forested area from all factors causing degradation, depletion and destruction of wildlife and wildlife habitats. In the spirit of maintaining the law of the land, we request you to take appropriate and immediate steps to protect this region.
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society
Copy to:Range Forest Officer, Urigam Range, Hosur Forest Division