The Forest Department is bracing up for a tough balancing act to placate religious sentiments of the local people without compromising conservation imperatives in Bandipur.
For, it is that time of the year when thousands of people in and around Chamarajanagar converge at the Beladakuppe Mahadeshwara temple which is located inside the core area of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The annual jathra is held during November/December (Karthika Masa) every year and is slated to take place from December 2 to 5 this year.
The festival witnesses a sudden surge in the number of devotees visiting the shrine.
A steady stream of vehicles moves in a convoy carrying devotees to the temple complex which is located in the Hediyala range of the tiger reserve.
Senior officials in the Forest Department told The Hindu that there is pressure from the elected representatives to lift the curbs during the jathra mahotsava.
‘’With the Parliamentary polls to be held within 6 months’ time, the pressure to take a lenient view and allow the vehicle movement is definitely high but we have not yielded to any such demands’’, said the officials.
A meeting was held to thrash out the issue with the members of the temple committee recently and the Forest officials made their stance clear that all entry will be regulated and there will be curbs on movement of vehicles as during last year.
In addition to the entry of vehicles, the local villagers want bullock carts to be allowed inside to ferry the devotees but the authorities have turned down any such demand on the grounds that the domestic animals are potential carriers of diseases that could afflict wildlife and prove to be catastrophic.
The authorities are vehemently opposed to any such demands after an outbreak of canine distemper in Gir Forests in Gujarat led to the death of scores of lions.
Officials say they want to whittle down the scale of the event in a gradual manner to reduce the impact.
“But there are other issues which have a bearing on wildlife behaviour and hence it was necessary to ensure that the temple visitations are regulated. The tendency to establish make-shift kitchens to prepare food for devotees and leave the leftovers, attracts wild animals which could lose fear of human presence and stray into human landscape, escalating the conflict situation’’, according to wildlife activists.
A meeting with the Deputy Commissioner of Chamarajanagar, Forest Department officials and members of the temple committee is slated to be held ahead of the jathra to ensure that there are no unreasonable demands and wildlife and forest laws are not violated.