The illegal mining activities surrounding Bengaluruâ€™s Bannerghatta National Park has been a long-standing issue. However, now, activists and environmentalists allege that illegal mining is taking place in the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Bannerghatta National Park (BNP).
The dynamite explosions, that require Class II explosives, is causing inconvenience to the residents of 47 villages that are situated there. These residents depend solely on agriculture for their livelihood.
Micheal Saldanha, former Justice of the Bombay High Court and resident of Bengaluru said that these activities are causing irreparable damage to the flora and fauna of the park as trees are being cut and wildlife is being threatened.
The protesters allege that there is a mining mafia with vested interests which plays a huge role in the alleged attempts being made to dilute the ESZ of the Park. Saldanha says that around 170 trucks are being deployed to cut trees and carry out quarry activities.
â€śWhat is happening in BNP is no less a crime than what is happening in Syria. Around 50,000 trees have been cut to pave way for roads to cater to their needs. The trucks have moved to the close vicinity of the park and they are mining just 100 meters away from it. This is very close to the elephant corridor too and is causing disruption to the herd. The groundwater is getting polluted to a great extent causing all kinds of diseases to the villagers,â€ť said Justice Saldanha.
He also said that those carrying out the mining activities must be awarded capital punishment.
The state government had reduced the ESZ from 268.96 sq km to 181.57 sq km last June. This is according to the draft notification sent by the Karnataka Forest Department to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in 2016.
Following this, the Chairman of Namma Bengaluru Foundation Rajeev Chandrasekhar had written a letter to the Central Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Harshavardhan in December requesting him to ensure that the eco-sensitive zone remains 268.96 sq km.
It was then conveyed to him by the Union Environment Minister that the validity of draft notification covering an area of 268.96 sq km had expired and that the Ministry has sought a fresh proposal from the state to republish the draft notification.
The draft for ESZ issued by Karnataka government last year, which was sent to Ministry of Environment and Forests lapsed as the Centre did not notify the buffer zone for this area.
Vruksha Foundation, an organisation which fights for environmental causes, and Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) are seeking a notification from the central government asking it to mark the buffer zone properly around the Bannerghatta National Park.
Kushal, the representative of Kushal Stone Crushers, which is one of the companies pursuing mining activities, told The New Indian Express that they would abide by whatever the law says once the final notification is released.
He even added that the Supreme Court has not restricted mining activities within 10 km from national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, and until the final notification comes out, the mining activities are to be handled by the state government, and they are hence, abiding by the laws.