Axing trees in Turahalli forest for power line shocks greens

Axing trees in Turahalli forest for power line shocks greens

Non-forestry activities are in full swing inside the Turahalli reserve forest in Bengaluru South, where trees were felled to lay electricity lines, while earthmovers were deployed to lay a road inside it, four days ago.

Wildlife enthusiasts were in for a shock when they saw that a few trees, mostly those of tendu leaves (used in the manufacture of beedis), inside the forest were felled to draw an electricity line up to Shani Mahatma temple atop the hillock. The forest is home to peacocks, snakes, mongoose, wild boars and a variety of birds.

Mohan Gowda, a regular visitor, said drawing an electricity line inside the forest poses a danger to peacocks as they may sit on them and get electrocuted. The assistant engineer of Bescom (Uttarahalli circle) said he was not aware of the felling of trees.

“I have no information about the trees being cut. I will check with my subordinates,” said the engineer. Range forest officer of Kaggalipura T M Devaraj said the electricity lines were laid long ago and Bescom “seems to have taken  permission”. He, however, was not aware that trees were felled for the electricity lines.

“Some bushes might have been cleared, but no trees were cut. I sent my subordinates and they did not find anything objectionable there,” said Devaraj.

Regarding the earthmovers, he said, “Oral permissions were taken by the authorities of the ancient temple for the convenience of devotees. We did not object to the road-laying work as it helps us water the plants there.”

The temple management has gone a step ahead. They were found laying steps up to the temple for the convenience of devotees. However, Devaraj did not find anything wrong in carrying out works inside the Turahalli forest. He said, “Turahalli hillock is not a reserve forest. It is just a minor forest.”

BBMP’s wildlife advisor R Sharath Babu said Turahalli hillock is part of the Bada Manvarthe Kaval reserve forest and hence, calling it a minor forest does not make sense.

Praveen Bhargav of Wildlife First said no agency can carry out non-forestry activities inside the reserve forest.

“For any such activity, the approval from the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment is a must. Road construction cannot be allowed in such a forest,” said Bhargav.

Dipika Bajpai, Deputy Conservator of Forests (Bengaluru Urban), said that in the last six months, no permissions were given for laying electricity line or road work there. She said she needs to check whether Bescom has valid permission for laying the power line.
DH News Service

Brush with realty
Spread over 440 acres, Turahalli forest always attracted the real estate people. About 10 years ago, the entire reserve forest was granted under the Bagair Hukum scheme for ‘cultivation purposes’ to ‘landless farm labourers’. Following a hue and cry by wildlife enthusiasts, the allotment was cancelled. Now, once again, non-forestry activities are on, hinting at a fresh bid to grab it.

Sharath Babu said the land was once sold to software companies. The sale was later cancelled.

“The forest department was supposed to fence the entire patch, but it could not. Only a small portion has been fenced,” Babu said.

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