BANNERGHATTA (BENGALURU RURAL DIST): The mention of Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) in Karnataka brings forth visions of family picnics and wildlife, but the sad truth lies in how a burgeoning Bengaluru city, on the fringes of which Bannerghatta is located, has adversely affected the biological park due to its unregulated growth. One of the most important habitats for elephants, leopards and other wildlife, the forest reserve is now under pressure from all sides. While the ever-growing concrete jungle from Bengaluru is threatening the crucial forests from the north, relentless quarrying along the edges of the reserve to feed the city’s construction demands is posing a similar threat from its other sides.
Although the dangers of urbanisation consuming the forests in the years to come is real, efforts are also afoot to ensure that the forest cover is not only preserved but its area grows. But how effective these efforts will be in stemming the reserve’s rot, only time would tell. Speaking to The Sunday Standard, Thimmarayappa, a resident of Ragihalli, marvelled at how the city seemed to approach the forest region year after year. “If you consider Bannerghatta town, it was a small village with around 50-100 houses about two-three decades ago. Now, the town has more than 2,000 houses and is almost an extension of Bengaluru,” he said.
Explaining how the growth of the city led to the rapid increase in quarrying around Bannerghatta, he said several hills disappeared over the past few years to meet Bengaluru’s demand for construction material.
Vishnumayananda Swami of Ramakrishna Mutt, who heads a conservation effort in Shivanahalli, detailed how the green cover has decreased in the city over the years. “The city ended at Jayanagar, that too with a few houses. About 20 years ago, vegetable fields and mango orchards were present in the modern day J P Nagar. Most of the regions outside the city were covered with green cover or shrub forests,” he said.
Noted environmentalist A N Yellappa Reddy said there is a direct relationship between the external stress faced by BNP and the growth of Bengaluru city. “In order to feed the city’s growth, quarrying, M-sand units and others were set up around the national park. Due to the availabilty of granite around the park, granite industry has also seen a boom, especially in Jigani,” he said.Since the 1960s, the city has grown in an ‘all-consuming’ manner every decade. Today, not only Bengaluru and the BNP, but also the residents living in towns closer to the city are suffering the consequences, he said. To a question regarding quarries around the park, Reddy said that there have been directives from the High Cort to shut the ones that were located in its buffer zone.
Bengaluru with its 1.12 crore (and counting) population has emerged as a global city, but not without adversely impacting its immediate neighbourhood with its obnoxious and unregulated growth. This impact is not only unidirectional, but regions in the city’s neighbourhood and its people living there, all around the burgeoning megapolis, are facing its negative impact.
Local efforts to increase forest cover
Considering that the forest cover in and around BNP has taken a beating due to the needs of Bengaluru, several efforts are afoot to increase the green cover. Among them is a project by Swami Vishnumayananda of Ramakrishna Mutt, who decided to transform revenue land in Shivanahalli into a forest. He told TNIE that the project was started 25 years ago. Plants and different varieties of trees were grown in the land surrounding the Ashram, he said. Apart from indigenous trees, four water holes were also constructed for the benefit of animals and birds. “People are using similar techniques in different parts of Western Ghats in Karnataka and Kerala to increase the green cover,” he said.