URGENT PIL: SAVE BANNERGHATTA NATIONAL PARK!
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The above photograph shows a Leopard that was killed by a moving vehicle in the vicinity of Bannerghatta National Park- a critical sign that Bangalore's last surviving breathing space is under severe threat. Photograph courtesy: Giridhar Kulkarni
Several vested interests which are after short-term gain are plundering this green area through illegal mining and tree felling, which could spell doom for the city in the long run. This where the issue of safe zones comes in the entire matter has been studied in detail by the Energy & Wetlands Research Group, CES, Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru and a report submitted.
The Bannerghatta National Park is close to Bengaluru, one of India’s fastest growing cities and it is a unique region of biological and ecological importance. It is the prime habitat for several species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds including the endangered Asian Elephant, Indian Gaur, Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer, Leopard, Wild Dog, Wild Pig, Sloth Bear, Common Mongoose, Pangolin, Slender Loris and Black Naped Hare.
As a terminal point on the northern side of Mysore Elephant Reserve, it is the movement path for Asian Elephants that migrate from the adjacent Cauvery wildlife Sanctuary of Karnataka and Krishnagiri and Hosur Forest Division of Tamilnadu which is in contiguous with the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve carved out of Western Ghats forest at Nilgiris stretching through Malaimahadeshwara hills, Biligiri Ranga Temple Sanctuary, Kollegal Forest Division and Sathyamangala Forests of Tamilnadu.
It is the crucial watershed for streams such as Antaragange Holé , Rayatmala Holé, Amuthi halla, Muthyala Madu halla, Shankarana halla, Bantana halla, Aane Maduvina halla, Byaladakere halla, Maavina halla and rivers (Arkavathi, Suvarnamukhi, Muthyalamadavu hole, Rayathmala hole, Hebbalahalla and Antharagange, which joins Cauvery river).
Considering its proximity to Bengaluru, its importance as a green belt close to the city cannot be underemphasized since it moderates the city’s climate, makes it liveable and therefore a sought after investment hub as well.
The recommendation of the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to increase safety zones (eco-sensitive zones) around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks from 100 meters to 2 km from the park's boundary is a key issue here. The note, prepared by CEC member secretary M K Jiwrajka, and submitted to the SC, has categorized Protected Areas (PAs) in four groups and the safety zone to be notified thereon.
It suggests that parks above 500 sq km will be under Category-A and its safety zone will be 2 km from boundary. Similarly, for Category-B (between 200 sq km & 500 sq km) the safety zone may be 1km from boundary. Such distances for PAs in Category-C (between 100 sq km and 200 sq km) and Category-D (upto 100 sq km) may be kept at just 500 metres and 100 metres respectively.
Given the fact that the Bannerghata National Park is contiguous with other protected areas the safety zone should be 2 km. Despite this granite mining is continuing unabated well within the safe zone. This is happening blatantly although the High Court has already passed orders with reference to safe zones around the National Park which are being flouted. Unless the orders are respected the Government could be open to action for contempt of court.
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