BENGALURU: Despite a default 10km Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) enforced around Bannerghatta National Park (BNP), wildlife activists allege that illegal stone quarrying continues in this zone. With the Centre yet to issue the final ESZ notification, they add that hazardous activities like mining and stone quarrying are banned in the default area. However, forest officials say that all mining activity has been stopped in the 1km safe zone, while it is impractical to implement or stop any such activity in the default area, what with the draft notification of BNP specifying an extent of 100 metres to 1 km.
As per the re-notification (draft) issued by the Centre on October 30, 2018, BNP’s extent of ESZ varies from 100 metres to 1 km around the national park, while the ESZ area is 168.84 sqkm, excluding 16 forest enclosure villages.
With a drastic reduction of more than 100sqkm area in the ESZ as also the extent, activists say this was done basically to benefit the powerful lobby of stone quarrying and mining companies, aided and abetted by politicians. They add, “Since the default 10km is in force now, officials have turned a blind eye to the illegal mining still taking place in the buffer zone.”
However, forest officials say that no mining activity is taking place within the 1km safe zone from the BNP boundary. An official adds, “Keeping the default 10km ESZ as a parameter till the final notification comes, we cannot shut such activities outside 1km as there are many other buildings and commercial activities going on.”
A forest official said, “We have double-checked, surveyed and closed all mining activities within 1km from the boundary. There won’t be much effect on wildlife or its habitat, as all activities are outside the safe zone. ESZ extent is 100m in some areas and 1km in other areas.
The 100m border is in those areas with a lot of human dwellings. The idea of enforcing the 10km default ESZ is not only impractical but impossible, as it will have a cascading effect on people living around.”
Bannerghatta, located on the northern side of Mysore Elephant Reserve, serves as a terminal point for large elephant populations migrating from the adjacent Thali Reserve Forest in TN. In fact, along with Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and adjoining TN forests, it forms a contiguous habitat of 1,400sqkm for both elephants and other species. Therefore, it becomes necessary to protect and conserve the area, and boundaries around the BNP as ESZ from both ecological and environmental hazards, like industries and commercial activities. Once the final notification is issued, the Zonal Master Plan will regulate development in ESZ and adhere to clear-cut norms of prohibited and regulated activities, officials add.