BENGALURU: In the wake of continuing protests by activists and allegations of mining in the ‘safe zone’ of Bannerghatta National Park, the state government is sending a revised draft, albeit a second one, for notification of the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around this protected area (PA). In the last few weeks, environmentalists have been seeking a final ESZ notification and have been furnishing satellite images of mining and quarrying activities in the safe zone of BNP.
The first revised draft of ESZ that was sent last year to the Ministry of Environment and Forests lapsed as the Centre failed to notify the buffer zone for this PA. The state forest department says Karnataka government’s 1991 safe zone order, which is still in force, is better than the ESZ notification. A simple and straightforward order, it provides a safe zone of 1km around the national park, they add.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden C Jayaram told The New Indian Express that a second draft is being sent to MoEF as the earlier draft has lapsed. This draft will be similar to the first one where the state government had reduced the ESZ area to 181.57 sqkm from 268.96 sqkm while the ESZ radius could range from 100m to 4,500m with inclusion of only 16 enclosures such as villages.
Denying all issues raised by activists, Jayaram added that three mines were presently operating outside the safe zone. He stressed, “I have visited and inspected all the three mines. There is no blasting within the 1km zone. The three mining companies have operational licences for 15-20 years. We have some technical issues with one of the mines and that is being verified.”In the elephant zone of the park, one can see the movement of animals and about 40 pachyderms, Jayaram said.
“The forest department has been fighting the issue of mining here day in and day out. However, the 1991 safe zone order was rigidly implemented and at one point of time, the Mines and Geology Department even talked about moving the mines away from the city. With the operational licences of these three mines expiring in another five to nine years, we will take a call and insist on environmental clearance. For this, they will have to seek permission from the National Board of Wildlife.”