BENGALURU: More than 50,000 citizens have raised objections against the government’s move to reduce the Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of the Bannerghatta National Park. For the last two months, Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) has been in the eye of the storm as the state government reduced the Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of this protected area by a whopping 100 sq km and further reduced its extent to a bare minimum of 100 m to 1 km. Environmentalists said the present reduction in ESZ is a mockery of both High Court and Supreme Court judgments and also ESZ guidelines.
In a bid to save Bannerghatta, which is considered the last remaining lung space of Bengaluru, citizens from all walks of life – IT professionals, students, activists and resident welfare associations – have come together to protest through every available platform. While some held bike campaigns, others started online protest and petitions on various platforms such as Change.org, Jhatkaa.org and Conservation India. Some also held a public protest/rally in Town Hall, Freedom Park and at different colleges, schools and residential layouts.
Collecting almost 20,000 signatures and petitioning PM Modi on Change.org, people have requested him to consider their submission as a PIL as they said it is a ‘criminal conspiracy to plunder BNP and its ESZ’. Another petition by United Bengaluru to Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) too has received support of 20,000 people where they say the arbitrary action not only threatens the fragile ecosystem and biodiversity of BNP but also defeats the stated purpose of establishing an ESZ.Suresh N Ranganath and Vijay Nishanth, United Bengaluru, said, “Located close to Bengaluru, BNP plays a crucial role in reducing heat and pollution in this mega city and helps in enhancing the overall quality of life for teeming inhabitants.”
The third petition on Jhatkaa.org has received support from almost 15,000 people. They said with BNP facing mining and encroachment issues, Bengaluru is turning into a concrete jungle with rising pollution and heat. Adding their support, Shanthinagar Resident Welfare Association too have joined the protests. Shiv Prasad, their president and other citizens, expressed their support for the ‘Save Bannerghatta’ campaign.
VVN College joined hands with United Bengaluru by holding an awareness programme for its students/faculty on the ESZ reduction issue and its effect on people and wildlife. Bikers of Bengaluru also organised a rally with support of ‘Riders of Bengaluru’ and ‘Bengaluru Bullet Club’ from Town Hall to Bannerghatta on Sunday. According to Samrat Ghodke, Biker Community organiser, the bike ride was to create awareness and sensitise people on this issue.
In a one-of-its-kind movement, thousands of citizens have registered their objections online and are sending e-mails to the Union Ministry of Environment of Forests and Climate Change. In a record of sorts, 56,000 people have signed and registered their protest while another 25,000 missed calls have been registered to express their anger against the reduction of ESZ.
Buoyed by the overwhelming support of people, the United Bengaluru group, comprising city’s major environmental groups, is now planning to submit a memorandum to Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan and request him to reject the draft ESZ 2018 notification and call for a fresh draft based on the 2016 notification.
Elephants are back
Post the closure of 5-10 mining leases by the State Mines and Geology department for irregularities in June, more than 85 elephants with their calves were seen again in Bannerghatta corridors and water holes - free from mining dust, noise and disturbance.