Bengaluru- known as the “garden city” of India is now facing severe issues in saving its greenery, thanks to the new Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) draft notified by the government. Environmentalists and activists have come forward and have filed their objections as their angst intensified over the government’s notification on ESZ in Bannerghatta National Park (BNP).
They are urging the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to understand the situation and extend the ESZ to 268.96 sqkm citing the importance of the National Park in pollution reduction and also said that its surroundings help in reducing heat island effect (elevated temperature in urban areas as compared to rural areas), reported The New Indian Express. A petition has been started to save the national forest. Please sign the petition.
What does the new ESZ draft say?
The new ESZ draft notified on October 30, 2018, states that the ESZ for Bannerghatta National Park has been reduced to 100 sqkm and the extent is only 100m to 1 km from the boundaries of the park, saving illegal quarrying and mining industries from the purview of ESZ regulations. The previous ESZ draft notified in 2016 had earmarked an ESZ of 268.96 sqkm and an extent of 4.5 km from the boundaries of the park.
Disapproving to the new draft, United Bengaluru has filed an objection along with the support of senior freedom fighter, Suresh N R, environmental policy expert, ATREE, professor of sustainability at Azim Premji University, Dr Sharachchandra Lele, Project Vruksha Foundation and many others.
“Reduction of ESZ threatens the fragile eco-system and biodiversity of BNP and also defeats the stated purpose of establishing an ESZ to buffer the impact on the national park,” said United Bengaluru and other activists. They also said that reducing ESZ will be a threat to the lives of the citizens living around the park as they have been at the receiving end due to blasting and dust pollution coming from quarrying activities. “BNP serves as a watershed for many rivers and forest streams that finally empties into the Cauvery,” they added, reported The New Indian Express.
Activists to approach the High Court and Supreme Court
The notification is welcoming public comments till December 30, after which it will be finalised. Hence, there are only a few days left for the deadline, the activists are even considering to approach the High Court and the Supreme Court regarding their objections and concerns over the draft.
Vijay Nishanth, a conservationist while talking to The Logical Indian said: “The Supreme court had ruled that in the absence of the notified ESZ area by the state for the National Parks, 10km area will, by default become the ESZ area for the Park. If the state has decided to reduce the ESZ zone for the BNP, it must have listed out the reasons for the same. This draft where the ESZ has been reduced to merely 100 sq.km in less than two years suggests that the powerful real estate lobby highly influences the government in the region,” he added.
The activists, while criticising the state government’s safe zone order, which declares one kilometre around the park as safer zones, say that none of the decisions taken by the state government comes under the Supreme Court’s guidelines of ESZ. “One of the guidelines says that in case of sensitive corridors, even if ecologically important patches crucial for linkage are beyond 10 km width, they shall be included within the ESZ. But in Bannerghatta, which forms the link between Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the inclusion of a mere one kilometre as ESZ does not serve any purpose,” reported Deccan Herald as activists saying.
Bannerghatta National Park in grave danger
The ESZ area notified for the park in November has narrowed down drastically along its northern boundaries where illegal dynamiting of hillocks for stone quarrying and illegal mining continues unabated. Even though the quarrying activities are banned within 1km from its periphery, it goes unchecked affecting the lives of people living around the park and it also is taking away shelter for the animals.
This illegal quarrying and crushing firms have not only affected the ecosystem, but it is also polluting water streams. Firstly, BNP being one of the elephant corridors have been immensely affected which compels the elephant to take another route for their migration. Secondly, it has also destroyed the source of water and fodder for the animals, which leaves them with no choice but to stray into human settlements. All these have led to more number of animal-human conflict in recent times.
Another ugly side of the quarrying has come forward. Water resources and water holes are contaminated of the park due to the dumping of mining debris, said a BNP official.
Also, an RTI filed by Namma Bengaluru Foundation has revealed that many mining and quarrying activities were functioning within the specified safe zone of one km and 10 km (default safe zone).
The Logical Indian Take
While the activists and environmentalists are trying to save the only national park Bengaluru has, the government is secretly trying to scoot the quarry and mining industries for their benefits. “Nearly 50 quarries are coming, and even during the national safari, the quarries are visible which is unbelievable. What is even more shocking is that forest officials are also quite on this matter,” said Vijay Nishanth, while talking to The Logical Indian.
Bannerghatta, enriched with floral and faunal diversity, is a home for several species. It is also a crucial watershed for several rivers which joins Cauvery. The significance of BNP to sustainable wildlife and healthy ecosystem is unquestionable. However, rapid urbanisation and unplanned growth have fueled illegal quarrying and mining within the safe zone.
The Logical Indian urges the government to assess the situation and the looming threats if the draft is finalised and also encourages the citizen to come forward and support the opposition filed. This decision will not only impact the citizens and the wildlife in and around the national parks but also will affect Bengaluru city in the long run.