'Declare Roerich estate a ‘biodiversity heritage site’

Declare Roerich estate a ‘biodiversity heritage site’, board urges govt

The estate, located off Kanakapura Road in South Bengaluru, belonged to yesteryear actress Devikarani and her Russian painter-husband Svetoslav Roerich. The couple died issueless. FILE PHOTO

In an effort to safeguard the sprawling Roerich and Devikarani Roerich Estate in South Bengaluru, the Karnataka Biodiversity Board on Wednesday recommended to the state government to declare it a ‘Biodiversity Heritage Site’. 

Board chairperson Ananth Hegade Ashisara submitted the recommendation to Chief Secretary T M Vijay Bhaskar, who is also the chairperson of the Roerich and Devikarani Roerich Estate Board. 

Ashisara visited the estate last week with experts and forest officials, taking stock of the activities and works underway at the 467-acre estate. He said that the government should declare the estate a ‘Biodiversity Heritage Site’ under the Biodiversity Act, 2002. 

“This will help realise the dream of the estate owners,” he noted, adding that a similar effort was made in 2016. 

The estate belonged to yesteryears actress Devikarani and her Russian painter-husband Svetoslav Roerich. It’s been under the state government’s control since the couple didn’t have kids nor had they willed it to anyone.  

Dubbing the estate Bengaluru’s oxygen bank, Ashisara pointed out that the estate is home to unique flora and fauna besides being an elephant corridor. “We saw elephants during our visit last week,” he said. 

“The estate is also home to wild dogs, jackals, and dears. Botanists have identified close to 150 unique species of trees and the forest department has set up a tree park,” he added. 

Conservation scientist Sanjay Gubbi and his team have documented leopards and vulnerable smooth-coated otter’s population in and around the estate. The expert committee also recommended regulated entry of the public into the estate. “Teachers, students, and artists must be allowed for education besides eco-tourism,” Ashisara said. 

Urging the government to strongly discourage commercial tourism inside the estate, Ashisara also asked for a perimeter wall around the estate to prevent encroachment.

‘KSPCB must act’

Although the biodiversity board lauded the works at the estate, it expressed displeasure over the maintenance of the badly polluted lake. “The lake is the only source of water for the estate and the adjoining areas. But water has turned green due to discharge of untreated sewage from the nearby apartments and revenue areas,” Ashisara said. “The KSPCB must crack the whip on the polluters and make them pay for the damage.” 

He also brought the government’s attention to a large garbage pile alongside Kanakapura Road leading to the estate.