All non-Karnataka (KA)registered vehicles entering the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve (NTR) through various entry points including Mysuru will have to pay a cleaning fee. The order has been implemented from Feb. 1, 2023, much to the chagrin of vehicle owners and drivers from neighbouring Kerala who use the roads regularly.
A cleaning fee of Rs. 20 is being levied from all non-KA vehicles. While Light Motor Vehicles (LMV) are paying Rs. 20, heavy vehicles are paying Rs. 50 per entry. Most of the vehicles towards Kerala enter the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve limits through the Anechowkur Gate on the Kodagu-Mysuru border and on average, over 5,000 vehicles use this road to travel between the two States.
As per the notification of the Forest Department that has been pasted on a notice board at the Anechowkur Gate, the entry fee rule has been implemented at Bavali Check Post near Mysuru, Anechowkur Gate, Nanachi Gate, Udbur Gate, Karmad Gate, Kallahatti and Veeranahosahalli Check Posts all coming under the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve.
The notification also mentions that tourists who use Dammanakatte and Nanachi Gate for parking their vehicles too have to pay a parking fee of Rs. 50 for LMV and Rs. 100 for heavy vehicles.
Decision during PCCF visit
Sources told Star of Mysore that on Jan. 18, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Wildlife and Chief Wildlife Warden Rajiv Ranjan visited the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve and during a meeting with the Forest Department officers, the issue of tourists throwing garbage, plastic waste and food waste inside the forests came up.
It was proposed during the deliberations that a nominal entry fee must be collected from tourists who enter the Tiger Reserve from various gates. It was also observed that a majority of the non-KA vehicles entering the check posts are from Kerala and the visitors habitually throw plastic waste, food waste and paper inside the Tiger Reserve before they exit to their State.
Though signboards have been put up not to litter inside the Tiger Reserve, many of these commuters deliberately do so. Even they blatantly stop their vehicles inside the forests to click photos and a penalty of Rs. 500 is not a deterrent, the officers told the PCCF.
Funds for cleaning/ maintenance
The money collected at the check posts every day is taken to the office of the jurisdictional Range Forest Officer and deposited in the banks the next day. At the Anechowkur Gate alone, more than 5,000 Kerala-registered vehicles enter and exit every day and on average, the collection crosses the Rs. 1 lakh mark daily.
People and funds will be mobilised for the cleaning and maintenance of roadside borders every week. Officers said that ever since the entry fee is being levied, cleaning campaigns too have started and every week a particular area is cleaned and loads of waste are cleared.
But commuters, especially from Kerala, are not enthused about the entry fee. “I travel thrice a week using this road and I end up paying Rs. 60. They have not put up signboards indicating the entry fee and when questioned, they point out the notice pasted on the notice board. Why collect fees in a sly manner? 90 percent of Keralites use this road to enter Karnataka. This is a ridiculous step,” alleged Shabbir, a timber merchant from Kerala.
Some commuters also alleged that the check post staff also collect money without issuing the entry fee slips, especially at night when there is no supervision. Hundreds of poultry vehicles take this road at night and there are instances where money has been collected without issuing entry slips, commuters alleged.
‘They cause harm to biodiversity’
Kodagu Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) B. Niranjan Murthy told SOM that the collected money will be used to regularly clean and maintain the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve (NTR) from all sides.
“Earlier, we used to clean the roads, roadsides and trenches with the help of NGOs. Now we have hired cleaning staff with the entry fee being collected. We also monitor them with the help of our staff. Tourists throwing waste inside the Tiger Reserve is a menace and we do not get funds to clean the green swathes. We wanted to ban plastic in all vehicles and as this step is impractical, we decided to collect the cleaning fee,” he said.
“If you litter, you have to pay a price. Moreover, Rs. 20 or Rs. 50 is nominal when compared to the destruction the tourists cause in a biodiversity sensitive zone,” he added.
The entry fee system might also be extended to the Anekad Check Post near Kushalnagar and Mutturu Check Post in Periyapatna taluk of Mysuru as hundreds of non-KA vehicles, especially tourist vehicles, enter the Tiger Reserve limits.