Monday, February 8, 2010

Bhimgarh (Dist: Belgaum) now wildlife sanctuary


BANGALORE: A decade’s struggle has paid off. The ministry of environment and forests gave its consent to declare Bhimgadh in Belgaum district as a wildlife sanctuary. Goa is probably heaving a sigh of relief as it had locked horns with Karnataka over the Mahadayi river valley diversion project.

Bhimgadh was in the eye of a storm for two reasons. While it was a political issue between Goa and Karnataka over sharing of Mahadayi water, wildlife enthusiasts were keen on saving this unique habitat. Chief wildlife warden B K Singh confirmed that the Centre had given its consent for declaring 138 sqkm of forest as a wildlife sanctuary and the government issued the order three days ago.

Bhimgadh shelters two rare bat species — Wroughton free-tailed bats and Tomb bats. In India, Barapidi in Bhimgadh has the only colony of Wroughton free-tailed bats. Their only other habitat in the world is Brazil. Tomb bats are found in West Bengal. B K Singh said the Barapidi caves were part of the sanctuary. Wildlife enthusiast Ajay Desai said the forest was also a triangular corridor for tigers and elephants, which migrate between Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.

State wanted water share
Bangalore: Bhimgarh, a unique habitat for two rare bat species, had been caught in a political wrangle with Goa even as wildlife enthusiasts fought to save it.
Karnataka wanted to build two check dams at Kalasa and Banduri to tap 7.5 tmcft water for supplying drinking water to Hubli-Dharwad. The project involved submerging 323 hectares of forest and the issue had been referred to the forest advisory committee for clearance.

The main Mahadayi project involved three dams at Potli, Alsara and Harinala. Karnataka argued that its catchment contributed 45 tmcft water to the Mahadayi river and over 200 tmcft of river water flowed into the sea.

Karnataka wanted a share of this water, to which Goa objected. The Goa government even favoured forming a tribunal to settle the dispute.

The issue was politically hot till 2004 during Congress rule. Subsequent coalition governments didn’t show much interest in this issue. Now, if the government wants to take it up, it has to obtain clearance under Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

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