Bannerghatta ESZ: Ban proposed on mining, quarrying

For years, environmentalists were asking the government to finalise an ESZ for Bannerghatta in order to stop illegal mining and quarrying, outside the park even though government officials and mining companies denied any illegality in their operations. DH

The Union Environment and Forest Ministry has released a fresh draft notification to demarcate the Eco-Sensitive Zone around Bannerghatta National Park that remains a contentious area due to several mining companies operating in the area. In the new draft, commercial mining, stone quarrying and setting up of crushing units top the list of activities prohibited within the Bannerghatta ESZ.

The October 30 notification says the ESZ would be having an area of 168.84 square km housing 77 villages. This is almost 100 sq km less than the previous notification issued in 2016 in which an area of 268.9 sq km was earmarked as the ESZ.

The 2016 notification, however, lapsed due to the opposition from the Karnataka government that didn’t submit its views as sought by the central government.

For years, environmentalists were asking the government to finalise an ESZ for Bannerghatta in order to stop illegal mining and quarrying, outside the park even though government officials and mining companies denied any illegality in their operations.

The first effort to create a legally protected buffer zone around Bannerghatta came in 2016 when the central ministry issued a draft notification declaring 268.9 sq km area outside the park (the width varying between 100 metres and 4.5 km) as the ESZ.

“After the notification was published on June 15, 2016, it was considered in the ESZ expert committee meeting on February 28, 2017. After hearing the representative of the Karnataka Government, it was decided to reduce to 181.5 sq km. The Union Ministry received representation from various stakeholders, which were forwarded to the state government and its views were sought to finalise the notification. Due to the non-submission of the views, the notification’s validity expired,” Mahesh Sharma, the Minister of State for the Environment had stated in a written response to the Lok Sabha in August.

In May 2018, the State Forest Department sent a fresh draft ESZ proposal, which was the basis for the new draft notification issued by the Central Ministry. 

In the new draft, the extent of the ESZ varies between 100 metres at some places to 1 km at other sites around the park that houses a breeding population of elephants and several other animals, including leopards and bears. The notification is open to public comments for 60 days after which it will be finalised.

Other prohibited activities in the Bannerghatta ESZ include setting up of polluting industries, power plants, brick kilns and sawmills.

No new commercial hotels and resorts shall be permitted within one kilometre of the Bannerghatta National Park or up to the extent of the Eco-Sensitive Zone, whichever is nearer except for small temporary structures for eco-tourism activities. The state government has been asked to create a zonal master plan for the ESZ.

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Bannerghatta ESZ: Ban proposed on mining, quarrying

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