Forest Department directs ESZ monitoring committee to take action against
illegal cottages in Bandipur Tiger Reserve
Aksheev Thakur, Indian Express
September 12, 2023
The Karnataka Forest Department has directed the Mysuru Regional
Commissioner, who heads the Bandipur Tiger Reserve’s eco-sensitive zone
(ESZ) monitoring panel, to act against illegal cottages built within the
In a letter, the department cited cottages built by one Asha Bablani in the
reserve’s elephant and tiger corridors.
The letter said, “You are the chairman of the said monitoring committee,
you have to clear the resorts and homestays in the eco-sensitive area of
the Bandipur Tiger Reserve as per law and take legal action against the
owners. Information has to be provided to the office about the action
The action is being taken based on the complaint by wildlife
conservationist Giridhar Kulkarni, who had requested the APCCF (vigilance)
to take necessary action to demolish the illegal constructions carried out
by Bablani at Survey Numbers 497/1, 497/2 and 275 of Bachahalli village.
“I had given a complaint to APCCF vigilance in March 2023 questioning the
decision of Bandipur ESZ Monitoring Committee which had permitted Asha
Bablani in 2021 to use her property for residential purpose, the land
conversion for which was already cancelled in 2011 by the office of Deputy
Commissioner (DC), Chamarajanagara based on a report by Deputy Conservator
of Forest, Bandipur report since Bablani had built 33 cottages in an
elephant corridor. DC had even directed the Gundlupet Tahasildar to evict
the resort which was challenged by her in the High Court of Karnataka.
Disposing the matter in 2018 the HC had directed the DC to take further
action by giving reasonable opportunity to the petitioner. Later Bablani
submitted an application before the Bandipur ESZ monitoring committee
requesting her to allow the property for residential purpose and the
committee agreed to it in 2021 against which I had given a complaint to
authorities including APCCF (Vigilance),” Kulkarni said.
Bablani had obtained the land conversion permission from DC, Chamarajanagar
on September 17, 2009 for residential purposes at Survey Number 497/1 of
Bachahalli village. The land conversion Order issued by DC had clear
conditions that the land shall be used for residential purpose only and any
buildings constructed illegally, shall be demolished without any relief.
Further, Bablani had given an indemnity that if she uses the land for other
than residential purpose, then action can be taken to demolish the
buildings and also legal action can be taken against her.
However, the then Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF), Bandipur Tiger
Reserve wrote to the DC, Chamarajnagar stating that Bablani had constructed
33 cottages and started running a Resort called AAJR Inn. The DCF requested
the DC, Chamarajanagar to cancel the land conversion of the resort. Based
on the letter by DCF of Bandipur, DC of Chamarajanagar had cancelled the
land conversion on August 26, 2011.
On April 21, 2012, the Tahasildar, Gundlupet issued a demolition notice
which was challenged by Bablani in the Karnataka High Court. On August 20,
2018 the Court disposed of the petition and directed the DC, Chamarajanagar
to give a reasonable opportunity to Bablani before taking action against
Kulkarni said, “Bablani submitted an application before the Bandipur ESZ
Monitoring Committee requesting the officials to allow her to continue the
Ayurveda treatment in her property and also to allow the people to stay in
the property who come for treatment.”
“In 2021, in the ESZ monitoring committee meeting it was brought to the
notice of the Committee that DC of Chamarajanagar had issued a final Order
on July 16, 2021 where the land conversion cancellation order of August 26,
2011 was withdrawn. Shockingly, the Committee decided to allow Bablani to
use the property for residential purposes with a condition that she will
give an indemnity that she will not use the property for commercial
purpose. Thereby, the ESZ Monitoring Committee which is solely constituted
for the conservation and protection of the ESZ of the Tiger Reserve took a
decision in grave violation of the provisions of Environment (Protection)
Act, 1986, provisions of the Buffer Zone of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Section
38 (o) (1) (g) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972,” Kulkarni stated in
his complaint stated.
“Because, the same property owner had given an indemnity in the year 2009
that she will use the property purely for residential purposes. However,
the land owner constructed 33 cottages and started running a Resort called
AAJR Inn. When this was objected by the Forest Department, DC ordered for
the cancellation of the land conversion which the property owner challenged
in the Court. It disposed off the petition by giving liberty to the
respondent to take action as per law by giving a reasonable opportunity.
However, instead of taking a decision to demolish the illegal structures,
the ESZ Monitoring Committee again gave an opportunity to use her property
in the name of residential purpose which is illegal, highly unfortunate and
detrimental to wildlife conservation,” the complaint stated.