Centre, withdraw Bannerghatta Park notification

Centre, withdraw Bannerghatta National Park notification

Bannerghatta National Park

The notification by the Centre reducing the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) on the outskirts of Bengaluru by 100 sq km under pressure from Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa is totally wrong as the move will only benefit the real estate and mining lobbies at the cost of our green cover. With this, the buffer zone will shrink from 268.9 sq km to 168.84 sq km leading to commercial activity on the periphery of BNP, deforestation, increased man-animal conflict and in due course largescale encroachment of the forest itself. Despite strong opposition from his party MPs like P C Mohan, Tejasvi Surya and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the chief minister had recently written to Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar demanding that the notification be speeded up as the delay was affecting developmental activities in the region. A perusal of the notification leaves no one in doubt about its real motive as the buffer zone has been primarily reduced towards Bengaluru—which will come as a boon to the construction mafia—and in certain mining areas of Kanakapura.  The maximum distance of the buffer zone from the forest boundary has now been cut from 4.5 km to 1 km. 

Ironically, this also exposes the conflict of interest involved in the appointment of Anand Singh as the minister for forest, ecology and environment. Singh is facing trial in at least 15 cases which include illegal mining in reserved forests and altering the boundary marks of forest areas. Fears of environmentalists that the state’s forests are not safe in his hands, now seem to be coming true. Such environmentally unfriendly decisions are not new to Yediyurappa. During his earlier stint as chief minister, he had proposed a 300-acre theme park and golf resort, along with a film city at Hesarghatta grasslands, but this did not see the light of the day as he lost his post. More recently, he announced that a film city would be constructed at the Roerich estate, a 460-acre lung space which is home to several small animals besides being an elephant corridor. This too did not fructify due to protests from greens. And now comes the Bannerghatta notification.

At a time when the forest cover around Bengaluru is fast depleting, the notification will only sound the death knell of Bannerghatta which is already facing an assault from poachers and encroachers. This could also open the floodgates of similar demands from other forest areas like Bandipur and Nagarahole. The Centre should immediately withdraw the notification and ensure that the status quo is maintained. Our forests belong not to us but to the next generation, for whom it should be preserved.

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