The State government is set to declare the 148-sq-km buffer zone of the Silent Valley National Park as Bhavani wildlife sanctuary. Encompassing parts of the Mannarkkad and Nilambur (South) forest divisions, the region will become the 25th protected area in the State.
The State Board of Wildlife, chaired by the Chief Minister, decided to recommend the notification of the region as a wildlife sanctuary in its recent meeting.
The decision is expected to enhance the conservation activities in the biodiversity hotspot.
Proposal in 2010
The move has been in the pipeline since November 2010 when the board endorsed the idea, following which the proposal was submitted to the government. Subsequently, a consultative meeting of stakeholders, including tribal leaders and representatives of 20 grama panchayats in the region, backed the move. Inexplicably, the proposal had been kept in cold storage until the government referred the matter to the board once again after five years.
560 tribal families
Around 560 families reside in the six tribal settlements in the region that comprises vested and reserved forests.
The Forests and Wildlife Department maintains that the traditional rights of the tribespeople will not be affected when it is made a wildlife sanctuary as the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 are applicable to both reserved forests and wildlife sanctuary areas.
“In fact, the local community is expected to benefit from the increased surveillance. Besides, they also stand to receive more livelihood opportunities with some expected to be roped in as protection watchers,” a senior official said.
Home to abundant faunal and floral wealth, the Bhavani wildlife sanctuary is also known to be an emerging haven of dragonflies and damselflies.
A recent faunal survey revealed the presence of several rare species of odonates there.
There are currently five national parks, 18 wildlife sanctuaries, including two tiger reserves at Parambikulam and Periyar, and one community reserve in the State.
The government had notified the Karimpuzha wildlife sanctuary in Malappuram in December last.