Conservationists allege reckless driving over the grasslands, paragliding and illegal sand mining have posed a threat to the habitat.

Bengaluru activist wants Hesaraghatta grasslands to conservation reserve
news Environment Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 16:07

Environmental conservationists in Bengaluru are alarmed at how grasslands adjoining the Hesaraghatta Lake are becoming a den of illegal and unethical activities especially during the lockdown. As a remedy conservationists have now called for the state government to make this area a conservation reserve.

Among a host of problems, conservationists allege that several photographers and birders are recklessly driving their four-wheelers onto the grasslands and damaging them. Photographs gathered by activists also show paragliding activity going on in the area while local residents complain that there are illegal sand mining activities taking place from time to time.

The 345-acre Hesaraghatta grassland is a good habitat for raptors, including the migratory red-necked falcon and European roller, activists point out. They say that this area is among Bengaluru's last remaining grassland and is home to more than 30-40 species of birds, including avian winter visitors which feed on fish and crustaceans in the adjoining Hesaraghatta Lake and wetlands.

Reptiles including the red sand boa, spotted deer, wild boar and black-naped are common. Activists allege authorities are reluctant to act even though the local community has complained about illegal fishing and poaching of black-naped hare, wild cat and the endangered slender loris.

Speaking to TNM, Natesan an Indian Forest Officer who is on deputation as the Commissioner of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Sciences Department, said the ambiguity in land ownership is the major cause of this problem.

While part of this land is managed by the Animal Husbandry Department, part of the land is managed by the Minor Irrigation Department and the Revenue Department.

“Since it is not a restricted area like a national park or sanctuary, there is no illegality in entering the area but harming wildlife is prosecutable under the Protection of Wildlife Act,” the forest officer told TNM.

Joseph Hoover, a former member of the State Wildlife Board and convenor of conservationist group United Conservation Movement said. “Entry and photography could be pardonable. But not the wanton destruction of the habitat. It has also become a party area for tipplers, with liquor bottles callously strewn around the grassland.”

He added, “Drones have also been used by tech-savvy birders. Worse, some enthusiasts have indulged in powered paragliding, disturbing avian seasonal visitors. It is intriguing how these illegalities have been allowed right under the nose of the government machinery.” The UCM has written an email to the Chief Secretary and the Chief Minister’s office demanding that the land be recognised as a conservation reserve.

He also urged the state machinery to investigate allegations of illegal sand mining taking place in the area.

Hoover also pointed out for some time now biologists and activist like noted ornithologist MB Krishna had raised concern over cars and jeeps driven by photographers destroying the grassland.

Natesan explained that in conservation reserves there is no change in land ownership only there are greater restrictions imposed to protect species.

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