The Destruction of Bannerghatta National Park means the Destruction of Bengaluru City

September 26, 2018; Bengaluru: Rampant urbanisation and industrialisation is threatening the 260 sq km national park and its surrounding areas. Owing to pressures of urbanisation and pleas from activists the Supreme Court dated 04 February 2006 (WP Civil No. 460/2004 - Goa Foundation vs Union of India) directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) to instruct states to notify Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) around all National Parks and Sanctuaries. It recommended a default buffer Zones of 10 km from the boundaries of the national parks as Eco Sensitive Zone.

However, the State Government has failed in protecting the national park. They first attempted to reduce the EZS from 268.96 sq km to 181.57 sq km. The state Government has also failed to respond to the union government’s call to republish the notifications as the previous one submitted to the union in June 2016 had expired.

The expiration of the draft notification and the lack of a defined area for ESZ around Bannerghatta National Park invariably makes 10 kms around the park boundary a buffer zone where development projects like road expansion, mining and quarrying etc are banned.

Bengaluru Demands - Shut Down of Mining Operations

Pressure from citizens and experts forced the Mining and Geology Department in Karnataka to shut down numerous illegal quarrying and stone crushing units within the I km Safe Zone and 10 km buffer zone of Bannerghatta National Park. The effect of these closures has been tremendous, where within weeks of the closure, wildlife has been sighted in and around mining zones.

Response to RTI application filed by Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) to the Deputy Conservator of Forests reveals that many of these mining operations were functioning well within 1 km of the safe zone and 10 km buffer zone.  (Annexure-1 & II)

There were no clearances issued from competent authorities for carrying out mining operations, which has been prescribed in the MoEF’s memorandum/guidelines published on 20 August 2014.

The authorities have also noted disturbances to movement of wildlife in the area due to explosion etc., Furthermore, mining companies operating within the Safe Zones and Buffer Zone have diverted the natural flow of water by dumping mining debris into streams contaminating the water. Moreover, there are numerous revenue villages within the buffer zones and agrarian communities have been affected by mining activities and worse, man-animal conflict in and around wildlife corridors.

Added to this, the Hon’ble Lokayukta of Karnataka has taken suo motto cognizance of the matter in early September 2018 and order a status report from the concerned agencies.

Bengaluru Demands - Accountability and Action

In a letter dated 14-05-2018, the Principal Chief Conservator Forest (Wildlife), Bengaluru has written to Additional Chief Secretary to the Government- Forest, Environment and Ecology Department stating that the issues relating to stone quarrying and crushing, blasting and other activities raised in a complaint filed by former High Court Judge Justice MF Saldanha is far from truth and baseless. (Annexure III)

Whereas, the proceedings of the meetings held between Officials from the Forest Department and Mining and Geology Department held on 14.06.2018 exposes these lies and clearly proves there has been dereliction of duty by a Public servant serving under oath.

Inhabitants of the villages around the illegal mining units who have suffered due to pollution etc are being continuously threatened, intimidated and harassed by the mining mafia. The Police and authorities must provide adequate protection and instill confidence among the vulnerable villagers in these areas.

Bengaluru Demands - Impose Penalties on Violators and urge the MoEF & CC to constitute an inspection committee to assess damage to BNP and its ESZ

Government must impose full penalties on the mine owners violating the law and must not succumb to the demands of the mining mafia’s call for a one-time settlement for violations.

The MoEF & CC must also constitute an inspection committee and inspect the National park and assess the impact of damage due to mining. In July 30, 2018, Shri Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP wrote to Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Hon’ble Minister (MoEF &CC) requesting him to urgently depute an inspection team to inspect incidents of Environmental Violations taking place in Bannerghatta National Park and the surrounding Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ).

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