BENGALURU: The recent land swap agreement between the Union Defence ministry and the state government, in lieu of land given by the former for 10 infrastructure projects in the city, has landed in a controversy. Concerned officials and activists say that 207.59 acres falling in survey numbers 23, 176 and 177 in Thammanayakanahalli, Anekal taluk, which are part of the exchange deal actually falls within the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of Bannerghatta National Park.
Before the agreement was signed, additional chief secretary Ravi Kumar accompanied by officials from concerned departments had visited the survey numbers on August 1 for a reality check. These survey numbers had earlier been given to BBMP to be used as landfill, however, the project was cancelled as activists went to High Court. However, quarrying was permitted and this went on for a decade in non-permitted areas too.
Now after 11 years, the government’s decision to hand over 207.59 acres of this defaced land to Defence has raised the hackles of activists. Vijay Nishanth adds, “Facing problems of disturbance to habitat and its wildlife, quarrying, encroachment of buffer lands and government’s attempts to reduce the ESZ to less than 1km, this order will be the final nail in the coffin of Bannerghatta National Park.”
Official sources in Anekal told TNIE that these survey numbers in Thammanayakanahalli that is being given to defence ministry falls within 600m of BNP. He added, “In 2007, this land was handed over by Revenue Department to BBMP to be used as a garbage dump for Bengaluru. However, this project fizzled out after protests. But later, permission was given by Mines and Geology Department and quarrying was done rampantly. The land is totally unusable, in fact, quarrying has destroyed the landscape here.”
A police official added, “That this permission was given for quarrying in the ‘1 km safe zone’ of BNP shows that all laws have been dumped in the bin. Most officials don’t act against these illegalities fearing the might of the political class.” Sources in revenue department said that when defence officials inspected the three survey numbers, they found the place unfeasible. The source added, “However, the government went ahead and identified this land for exchange.”
A senior forest official told TNIE that it is immaterial who is the new land owner in the ESZ (after the exchange ) as it does not come under the purview of the forest department. He added, “The land ownership of ESZ that is outside the national park does not need our NOC as there is no statutory provision. Only if the new owner wants to carry activities such as mining or any other hazardous activity or even prohibited and regulatory activity, they will need our permission.”
LAND SWAP DETAILS
The Defence Ministry which is parting with 11.16 acres land worth D282 crore for 10 infrastructure projects in Bengaluru will get in exchange 207.59 acres in three survey numbers of 23, 176, 177 in Thammanayakanahalli, Anekal taluk (worth D352 crore) as part of the exchange deal. Another 3.2 acres of land will also be given near Ulsoor in Bengaluru. On August 5, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and CM H D Kumaraswamy had signed the agreement for the land swap.