Fair And Festivities Leave Forests Filthy, Wildlife Frenzied

Fair And Festivities Leave Forests Filthy, Wildlife FrenziedElephant heading to cross National Highway 67 at the Bandipur National Park (Ambigapathy/Wikimedia Commons)

Elephants at the Gundre Wildlife range had to trot around plastic litter as a fair which saw around 30,000 people not just caused disturbance to animals but also left the area dirtied with food packets, plastic tumblers and bottles strewn all over the place.

The Gundre forest range under the Bandipur National Park limits, which has been bearing the brunt of forest fires too frequent for comfort off late, saw the latest one after a religious fair that took place inside the wildlife range.

According to The New Indian Express, a congregation of about 30,000 devotees was allowed to hold an annual religious fair at the Kabini backwaters. The forest department is reported as denying any link between the fair and the fire.

Home to over 500 elephants and housing one of the largest tiger populations in the state, wildlife activists are said to be miffed with the state of affairs as the tiger core area saw roars replaced by tasteless honking and vehicular movement, as thousands of people thronged to visit the Dargah inside the wildlife range.

'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,' said the activists, as mentioned by the The New Indian Express report. They also asked for a ban on religious places in core areas of wildlife reserves, suggesting shifting them out of the tiger reserves.

Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director T Heeralal, who dismissed the link between the fair and the forest fire reasoning that the fire was caused "due to an entirely different reason”, said the event took place only after obtaining permissions. “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 is quoted as saying, adding that cooking was not allowed in the core area. “Till last year, they used to do the 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”.

Not like that is any explanation, given that the said stretches of the Bandipur park are known to be dry and susceptible to fire, and the same has been cited as a reason for authorities denying locals permission to conduct prayers at temples housed within the forest range.