BENGALURU: Environmentalists and citizen activists, who have been on a long fight to retain the original Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of 268.96 sqkm around the Bannerghatta National Park (BNP), feel betrayed as the chief wildlife warden in an official letter dated October 25 to the Additional Chief Secretary, forest, environment and ecology department has stated that since the draft proposal of 168.84 sq km was approved by the cabinet sub-committee in February 2017 there is no need to retain the original ESZ of 268 sq km.
“In respect of BNP, the government of Karnataka during 1991 itself has issued a ‘Safe Zone’ notification under Rule 3(2) Karnataka Minor Mineral Concession Rule 1960, declaring 1 km and around the national park as Safe Zone. BNP being located close to Bengaluru city, it was inevitable to maintain a minimum width of ESZ in private lands around the national park. Since the decision is vetted by the Cabinet sub-committee requires no change for the proposal. Therefore, it is requested to submit a report to MoEF &CC to issue the final ESZ notification in respect of BNP at the earliest,” the letter reads.
Project Vruksha founder Vijay Nishanth, who was at the forefront of the protest against the reducing ESZ, said that legal options will be explored if the ESZ is reduced. “Are we oblivious to the fact that an elephant corridor exists there? We cannot reduce the ESZ at any cost. We fought to shut down the mining operations in the area and now time has come to fight against the proposal to reduce the ESZ,” he said.
Farmers staying around BNP were lured by real estate giants and land mafia to give up their claims on lands in lieu of money and jobs. “The farmers were indoctrinated by the mafia that the ESZ would be bad for them. The entire game is being played by real estate players and politicians. The authorities do not realise the massive damage the reduction of ESZ will cost,” said Mr Srinivas, a farmer staying in the area.
Earlier this year, Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya had apprised Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar about the issue and had appealed to retain the original ESZ of 268.96 sq km. Mr Javadekar had assured Mr Surya that he would look into the matter.
The chief wildlife warden’s letter does not mention either the concerns voiced by the MP or the citizens.
Despite the union environment ministry’s request to the state government to retain the ESZ at 268.96 sqkm in view of elephant corridors and ecology around the national park, the state forest department’s letter comes as a surprise to many....