In a boost to environmentalists trying to safeguard the 650 acres of biological park or biopark on Jnanabharathi campus of the Bangalore University, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has recommended conserving the biodiversity-rich green belt. This comes after BBMP’s Biodiversity Management Committee recently submitted its report on the need to conserve the biopark. The university administration has granted leases to many union and state government bodies to set up buildings on the lush green campus, at the expense of one of the last remaining green covers of the once famed Garden City. A few professors at the university had written to the BBMP, highlighting the importance of the urban forest and also requesting the civic body to take measures to protect it.
On May 28, in the note by Swamy, Deputy Conservator of Forests, BBMP and member of the Biodiversity Management Committee, said that mini forests like these should be conserved and that in the interest of a sustainable future, no deforestation or encroachments should be allowed. It may be recalled that in September 2020, there was widespread opposition, from both within and outside the university campus, after the administration leased out 17 acres of land within the premises to set up the University of Yogic Sciences. Around the same time, four acres were leased out to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to build a centre for the organisation in south India. Another 66 acres of land area, which is in a proposal stage, are set to be leased out to various other state government and union government bodies. A protest held by students, teachers and others in September 2020 had saved many trees from being axed. Vijay Kumar, an advocate in Bengaluru, has also approached the Karnataka High Court to reverse these land deals. The HC, in an interim order has granted a stay on felling any trees on the campus and will hear the matter again on June 4.
The recent note from BBMP came after Nandini N, a professor of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Bangalore University, prepared a 10-page report highlighting the role of the biopark as a carbon sink and oxygen tank, among other notable functions. The report also detailed how the park is home to a variety of plants, birds, butterflies (close to 150 species), snakes, insects and other small mammals including those in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. TJ Renuka Prasad, former professor of Geology and co-ordinator of the park, too, had written to the BBMP to take a proactive measure in protecting the mini forest. He had also mentioned how the biopark is also home to seven check dams and other artificial water recharge structures and adds crores of litres of groundwater recharge annually.
Vijay Nishanth, another member of the Biodiversity Committee, said the report is a model way of documenting the rich environmental wealth of the biopark and will help in a long way of conserving the urban forest. “In our meeting, we passed a resolution based on the report. It is important to conserve nature and biodiversity, especially in times of COVID-19. This report is a constructive effort to scientifically validate our demand to preserve the land,” he said.
Speaking to TNM, professor Renuka Prasad said that the park, which had started with 100 acres in 2001, saw massive expansion since 2014 with the active involvement of the public, NGOs and corporates and is now around 650 acres. “This is a collective heritage of the public and not the university alone. We have plants from the Western Ghats, north Karnataka and many neighbouring states,” said Renuka, stressing that the green cover expansion was facilitated with the help of students and the administration and that no money was sought from the university or others.
“Other than biodiversity, the biopark is a living laboratory for many departments, including botany, zoology, environmental science, bioeconomy and rural development. So we are not only losing forest but also a place for real lessons,” pointed out the professor.