Friday, February 27, 2009

Karwar Wild Life Endangered

The death of a leopard near Amdalli village in Karwar taluk, which was noticed on Saturday by the forest officials, clearly indicates that wildlife is threatened in Uttara Kannada district.

In fact, continued human interference in the forest has made life miserable for wild animals in their natural habitat.

Cases of wild animals sneaking into the human habitat in search of food are on the rise. These animals are either killed by people before being noticed by the forest officials or die of starvation or disease.

The forest region of Uttara Kannada district is no longer safe for wildlife. The rich vegetation of the district is under heavy pressure today than ever before. For instance the once beautiful wooded hills between Karwar and Honnavar have been mercilessly mutilated.

According to the Uttara Kannada Gazetteer, the rate of denudation of forest is four times the rate of replanting in the district.

Large forest areas had been destroyed in the past three decades in the district licitly and illicitly. The statistics provided by the forest department indicate that around 10.5 lakh hectares of forest area had been lost for various reasons.

This included nearly 20,000 hectares of area lost under the Kali hydel project, 50,000 hectares released for agriculture and 26,713 hectares for iron ore mining. These lost regions provided a safe shelter for elephants, bison, tigers, king cobras, leopards, black panthers and spotted deer to name a few. These statistics exclude the forest encroachment, which is about 26,000 hectares and also illicit felling by poachers. In fact at least once in a week the local papers carry reports on forest smuggling. Added to these, indiscriminate poaching of animals has proved disastrous for the survival of these animals.The forest officials complain there are not enough staff. One guard has to manage around 10 sq km of forest region. Moreover, the staff are not provided modern weapons to match those of smugglers.

People allege that many forest officials are hand in glove with the smugglers and funds provided for forestation are misused.

The forest development programme launched under the assistance of Overseas Development Agency of UK, which envisaged the joint management of the forest by the forest department and the villagers, proved a failure.

The village forest panchayats formed under the programme have become defunct today, thanks to the apathy of the forest officials, who did not want others to participate in the management of the forest.