BENGALURU: The draft re-notification of the Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) by the Centre has come as a shock to many. The ESZ area has been reduced from the earlier 268.96 sq km to 168.84 sq km. Environmentalists and activists say that there is no alternative but to launch an agitation as BNP is one the last remaining green spaces in Bengaluru.
The new draft states that only 77 villages will fall under the ESZ against the earlier 147 villages. Significantly, 22 villages have been dropped from the list. The area of ESZ now ranges from 100 mt to 1 km from the boundary of the national park.
One of the activists opposing the move said, “Take a look at the new draft notification. The ESZ has been primarily trimmed in the areas north of BNP towards Kanakapura and Bengaluru where granite and stone mining takes place and is considered prime real estate. The original draft had been finalized for an ESZ between 100 metres and 4.5 km from the BNP boundary while this one restricts it to between 100 mt and 1 km. The new draft by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is another attempt fulled by vested interests to exploit the forest areas around Bengaluru.”
An activist in the forefront of the agitation said, “In the vicinity of Bengaluru, this is the only lung space which has been under a constant threat of exploitation, irrespective of the legalities. It has been ruthlessly pillaged in connivance with officials and mining licences have been granted to contractors in Ragihalli and Shivanahalli. The corridor supports a large elephant habitat while BNP hosts a variety of mammals and other species.”
“We have 60 days to protest and submit public objections to the new draft,” says urban conservationist Vijay Nishanth. “Under the default ESZ of 10 km, 15 mining companies were shutdown and their activities came to a standstill. After a long time we saw elephants back in Bannerghatta near the watering holes. Other big mammals roamed freely without the getting disturbed by the quarries. We will not rest. We will start filing our objections and if necessary, take the legal route to save Bannerghatta from miners, land grabbers and realtors.”
Meanwhile, forest officials have clarified that the default 10 km ESZ will continue until the final notification is issued by the Centre.The 2016 draft notification issued for BNP lapsed as it was
opposed by the state government even though many legislators and politicians involved in mining
and quarrying activities fought tooth and nail against ESZ notification. As a result, a revised draft was issued by the state government reducing the area by 100 sq kms.