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Misappropriation of World Bank funds in The Nagarahole National Park and A Makhana Shot Dead
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Misappropriation of World Bank funds comes to light in
The Nagarahole National Park

 

INCERT Investigation Team has discovered the misappropriation of the World Bank funds, meant for the eco-development projects in the Nagarhole National Park area. The misappropriation of funds came to light when the Incert Investigation team camped in the villages adjacent to the Nagerhole National Park , to investigate the death of half a dozen wild elephants in recent weeks, on account of the escalating man-elephant conflict in the northern boundaries of the National Park.

Funds meant for Elephant Proof Trench (EPT) completely misappropriated.

The forest authorities have shown Rs.1.5 lakhs as expenditure towards civil works carried out in the existing elephant proof trench (EPT) that runs along the Chikkahejjur village. No such civil works were carried out by the forest department, but the amounts have been drawn and disbursed by the forest department, according to President  Mr. H. M. Chandrasekar and other members of the Village  Forest Committee.

A sum of Rs 12,12,500 had been earmarked for the eco-development and agro-forestry schemes for the Chikkahejjur village. This included World Bank fund of Rs 9,09,375  and the share of the village members of Rs 3,03,125. The budget allocation from the World Bank share was Rs 1,84,000 for building a Community Hall, Rs 5,66,000 for various agro forestry schemes and the Balance of  Rs 1,50,000 was ear-marked for the EPT work, Mr. Chandrasekar, President of the Chikkahejjur Village Forest Committee said.

They brought this issue to the notice of the World Bank Eco-audit team headed by Mr. Joshi, on 28th May 2002, in the presence of Assistant Conservator of Forest Mr. Jagadish, Forest Ranger Mr. Ravindra Kumar, Forester Mr. Suresh Babu and Incert representative, V. Sudhiendra during the deliberations at the meeting organised by the forest department and the VFC to brief the World Bank audit team and to take stock of the progress of the on going eco-projects. The President and members of the Village Forest Committee took the World Bank auditors to the EPT and they were shown the pitiable condition of the EPT, which is filled with thick weeds. They also showed the side-walls of the EPT which had collapsed in many places due to poor maintenance, and explained how the elephants have been regularly coming out of the Nargarhole National Park and raiding the crops, especially during the summer months, due to shortage of natural fodder in the forest.

On account of this frequent raids, the irate villagers who had lost considerably, had taken direct action and this had resulted in the death of half a dozen elephants, in recent weeks in the Chikkhejjur, Kolavige, Neralakuppe and Negathur villages. All these villages are located side by side outside the northern limits of the national park. The President of Chickhejjur VFC also informed the World Bank auditors that another Rs.1.5 lakh, has been misappropriated from the funds meant maintenance of EPT for the adjacent Kolavige village, which he had discovered during his routine talks with the Kolavige VFC President Mr. Devaraj.

World Bank Guidelines Completely Violated

The President of Chickhejjur VFC, Mr. H. M. Chandrashekar, informed the World Bank audit team and INCERT representative, that the guidelines stipulated by the funding agencies have been completely violated. As per the guidelines, the President and members of the respective VFCs have to approve all the expenditures and bills must be passed jointly by VFC and the forest department.  Even the cheques are to be jointly signed by the VFC President and the representative of the forest department. But the funds have been directly drawn and dispersed by the forest department, without bringing it to the notice of the VFC, according to VFC President Mr. H. M. Chandrasekar.

In the instant case, no palpable civil work what so ever was taken up to refurbish the EPT,  but Rs 1.5 lakhs has been withdrawn as expenditure towards civil works to the existing 600 meter long EPT in the Chikhejjur area. It is most likely that bills have been raised in a similar fashion for all other EPTs and funds have been misappropriated, without  undertaking any civil works, alleged some elders from the village. The total amount earmarked for civil works for the existing EPTs is in the region of  Rs. 4 to 5 crores and the entire EPT stretch needs to be inspected by experts, to unearth the EPT scam, another elder from the Chikhejjur village, demanded.

 

History of the Elephant problems, the Solar Electric Fence and the EPTs.

It may not be out of place to mention that the EPT was dug some four years ago. Earlier to this, the department had put up a solar electric fence in the region, to deter the elephants from wandering into the agricultural fields. The villagers told the INCERT team, that the electric fence was effective for only one year and there was practically no invasion of the pachyderms from the forest to the agricultural fields. But due to poor maintenance of the fences and the subsequent theft by fuel wood collectors, who used the galvanized wires from the electric fences for tieing them around the fuel wood bundles, the electric fence disappeared and the elephant problem aggravated once again.

Lot of funds were spent to put up the solar electric fence and later to dig the EPT. The villagers were assured by the forest department that the elephant problem will be a history. But due to poor maintenance, the electric fence became ineffective and the EPTs started caving in and the elephants started comming out of the forest, like never before. The EPTs are in utter state of neglect now. But funds are continually being drawn under the pretext of carrying out maintenance of the EPTs. The EPTs are ineffective in preventing the elephants from straying out of the National Park, which has resulted in the death of several elephants in the region.  A popular newspaper from Mysore has reported the death of 48 wild elephants in a short span of 16 months in the  Nagarhole National Park area, upto May 14th. INCERT has reported the death of half a dozen elephants from May 16th till date.

Makhana (tuskless male elephant) Shot Dead Yesterday

Just at the time of releasing this note to the press we were informed from our sources at the National Park that a 25 year old Makhana ( tusk less male elephant) was shot dead yesterday (31st May 2002), near the check-post in  the Anechoukur range of the Nagarhole National Park, . We are given to understand that the makhana was probably shot near the agricultural fields some two kms away and the injured elephant ran back and died in the Anechoukur check-post area, inside the National Park.

Photographs and a video clipping taken during the visit of the World Bank Audit team and the interview  with Mr. H. M. Chandrashekar, President  VFC, Chickahejjur are available with us.              

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The view of the EPT with overgrown weeds

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Only in a couple of places the side walls have been reinforced with boulders

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Hardly any civil maintance works were carried out.

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Galvanised wires were removed from the solar electric fences by the firewood collectors

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Another view of the so called EPT

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The EPT is hardly 2 feet deep in many areas

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Sandal wood smugglers tried to cut this tree adjacent to an EPT

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Only in some places the Department has cleared the weeds

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