State 1991 order ignored, BNP eco-zone delayed

State 1991 order ignored, BNP eco-zone delayed

Refuting the Centre’s argument that Karnataka failed to submit its views on the draft notification declaring the area around Bannerghatta National Park an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ), Karnataka forest department has stated the new proposal was sent in May 2018.

The ESZ issue was raised in the Lok Sabha on August 10. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State, Environment, Forest and Ecology, had pointed out: “The draft ESZ for BNP was published on June 15, 2016. It was placed before the ESZ Expert Committee on February 28, 2017. The draft had considered reducing the ESZ from 268.96 sqkm to 181.57 sqkm. But it lapsed because the state did not reply.”

Chief Wildlife Warden, C Jayaram told DH that the fresh proposal was sent to MoEF on May 2, 2018. The ESZ, which has now been proposed, is not uniform. It has been decided to have a uniform radial distance of 1 km from the outermost boundary edge of ESZ on BNP covering around 61 villages and 100 metres in case of 16 villages.

A challenge

Forest officials admit that declaring ESZ at the earliest had become a challenge. They reasoned: This is the only forest patch which is closest to any urban settlement (Bengaluru) and there are different types of settlements and developments around BNP. While government lands are easy to include, private lands needed to be handled sparingly.

Now, to put the quarrying and mining issue to rest, the department revisited the order issued by the state government on January 10, 1991.

Officials opine that there would not have been any problem if the state government had in-principle followed its own orders issued under rule 3(2) of Karnataka Minor Mineral Concession Rule 1960 which states: “The quarry area within a radius of 1 km round the BNP boundary is preserved as safe zone for protecting wildlife and that no quarrying lease shall be granted in respect on any land situated within the area.”

This order is being replayed after Harsh Vardhan, MoEF minister wrote to the state government on March 28, stating that until ESZ is defined around BNP, as per Wildlife Protection Act, 1986, 10 km around protected areas is considered as ESZ by default.

Clearance to be issued

To further protect BNP, Forest and Mines and Geology Departments are yet to issue clearances to 15 mining and quarrying companies which had obtained clearance from the Karnataka High Court in July.

The departments have sought clearance from National Board of Wildlife, which is mandatory as per environment rules.