Udupi, Jan 29, 2020: Issues relating to the Department of Forests dominated the general body meeting of the Udupi Zilla Panchayat here on Tuesday.Raghupati Bhat, MLA, said that crusher operators were the worst affected in the district due to officials of the Forest Department always quoting rules and obstructing their functioning. It had recently been decided at a high-level meeting that a joint survey of forests would be carried out by officers of the Revenue, Mines and Geology and Forest departments in these areas and that concession would be given to partially deemed forest areas, he said.
A survey was conducted of the areas and 11 were found to be partially deemed forests. But it was not just the crushers, even other development activities such as construction of concrete roads or asphalting roads too had come to standstill as the Forest Department was objecting to them, he said.Marali Pratap Hegde, member, said that if the Forest Department kept objecting to development works in rural areas, the problem of naxalism would once again raise its head in the district.Rohith Kumar Shetty, member, said that as per the provisions of the K. Kasturirangan Report, areas in villages, including Ajri, Siddhapur and Ulloor, had been declared as eco-sensitive zones by the Wildlife Division.
This would affect farmers and development works in these areas. The eco-sensitive zones had been marked only through satellite survey and it did not reflect the ground reality, he said.Lohith, Assistant Conservator of Forests, said that in some areas, the eco-sensitive zone ended at the border of a sanctuary as in the case of the Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary in Kollur town. But in cases where it had not been decided, there would be a buffer zone of 10 km from the border of such sanctuaries, he said.
Mr. Bhat objected to the absence of the Deputy Conservator of Forest, Kamala, at the meeting despite advance notice given. Intervening, Preeti Gehlot, CEO of Zilla Panchayat, said that Ms. Kamala had deputed two Assistant Conservators of Forests to the meeting and she was in Dakshina Kannada as she was holding additional charge of that district. This did not pacify Mr. Bhat and other members and finally a resolution was passed criticising her absence.