This decision was a setback for the decade-long movement initiated by the environmental activists and locals.

The Hesaraghtta Grassland and the lake Mahesh Bhat
news Environment Friday, January 22, 2021 - 18:18

The Karnataka State Wildlife Board on Tuesday rejected the proposal for converting Bengaluru’s last-standing grassland Hesaraghatta into a conservation reserve. This decision was a setback for the decade-long movement initiated by the environmental activists and locals. The state Forest Department, along with the Animal Husbandry Department had chalked out a proposal for declaring the 5,010-acre land area the Greater Hesaraghatta Grassland Conservation Reserve in 2013-14.

When contacted, environmentalist Joseph Hoover said, “The area is the last grassland space and we want to conserve it. It houses nearly 130 species of birds including migratory ones, mammals and butterflies. The destruction of the environment is being passed off as development. The Karnataka government had earlier planned to build a film city on a plot in Hesaraghatta too.”

It was filmmaker and member of the group Arkavathy and Kumudvathy River Rejuvenation Trust, Mahesh Bhat, who had spearheaded the Public Interest Litigation that helped save the 345-acre grassland situated in the larger 5,010-acre land area from being used to make a film city in 2012. He said, “We filed the PIL with Karnataka High Court and it went on for three years. The court eventually returned the land to the Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services.”

He, along with conservationist Ramki Srinivasan, biologist K S Sheshadri, and Ornithologist M B Krishna had drafted a detailed proposal for declaring the 5,000 acres including the lake bed as conservation reserve under section 36A of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. He added that after submitting the same to Karnataka Forest Department, changes were made – such as fencing the 345-acre grassland area – after the survey.

However, the State Wildlife Board had, according to the reports, refused to approve the proposal of classifying the area as a conservation reserve since it has a high value in the real estate sector. Over fears that it may halt the development of the region, Yelahanka MLA S R Vishwanath is opposed to the idea of classifying the space into a conservation reserve.

“The MLA has a very wrong notion as to what will happen with the region after it’s declared a conservation reserve. We want development too, and accepting the proposal won’t halt the progress in the area. He should clear the misconceptions,” said Joseph Hoover.

According to the Deccan Herald, Vishwanath’s opposition to the project is in the “interest of their [local villagers] livelihood”.

“The grassland has already been fenced by the conservationists. Once the 5000-acre area is turned into a conservation reserve, no development activities can be carried out, and the villagers near the lakes will suffer, so will the poultry farmers and fishermen. We don’t oppose the conservation of the environment, however, there already are buildings, hotels and other urban facilities. This decision will hamper everyone there along with villagers,” Vishwanath told TNM. 

He added that public consensus should have been taken before the proposal was listed and also said that asking the area to be declared a conservation reserve is “unscientific”. 

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