Bannerghatta National Park is situated in Bangalore in state of Karnataka. It was established in the year 1940 and declared a national park in 1974. It is located in the Anekal range of mountains and is house to elephants. The national park acts as a wildlife corridor to elephants connecting BR Hills and sathyamangalam forest.
The government then declared the buffer zone or the Eco sensitive Zone (ESZ) to be 268.96 sq. km. But in a recent proposal the buffer zone has been reduced to 169 sq. km. This decision faced many criticism from wildlife activists.
FACTS ABOUT BANNERGHATTA NATIONAL PARK
• The total area of the national park is 65127.5 acre.
• It is located 22km south of Bangalore in the mountains of Anekal range.
• Talli reserve forest is in the southeast direction of this national park.
• Bilikal forest is located in the south of the national park.
• In 2002 a small part of the national park was declared as zoological garden which is now known as Bannerghatta Biological park.
• First time in 2006 a butterfly enclosure was inaugurated in the Bannerghat biological park.
• Flora: Scrub type or dry deciduous forests, southern tropical moist mixed forests, southern tropical dry deciduous forests.
• Fauna: Elephant, Chital, Striped Hyena, Barking Deer, Peafowl, Porcupine, Grey Jungle Fowl, crocodiles, Partridges, tortoise, varieties of butterflies, python, etc.
ESZ REDUCTION IMPACT ON WILDLIFE
Members of the Ministry of Environment and Forests' (MOEF) in 33rd ESZ Expert Committee meeting on February 28 recommended that the November 5 draught notification, which declared an ESZ area of 169 square kilometres around BNP, to be finalised after "detailed deliberations."
This is a 37 percent reduction from the first draught notification, which indicated an ESZ area of 268.9 square kilometres in 2016.
The new ESZ will extend from the protected area's periphery by 100 metres (towards Bengaluru) to one kilometre (in Ramanagaram district).
Reduction in the ESZ, which regulates and prohibits certain activities that may destroy the forest, will open up more forest areas for mining and commercial development around Bengaluru's rapidly urbanising city.
The reduction in the buffer zone will have devastating effect on the wildlife and environment. The ESZ was enforced to restrict the activities of humans and protect the environment. The reduction in the ESZ will give permission to people to carry out activities that will harm wildlife like mining and industrialization.
Areas where ESZ has been drastically reduced are either being mined or are being considered for mining. The other sector that will benefit from the ESZ reduction is real estate, as land along highways near BNP will now be free of environmental restrictions.
THE KASTURIRANGAN COMMITTEE REPORT
The findings of a High-Level Working Group, also known as the Kasturirangan committee, are the basis for the MoEF notification. According to the government-appointed committee, the natural landscape of the Ghats accounts for only 41% of the total, with 90% of the area, or 60,000 square kilometres, designated as ecologically sensitive.
Current mining projects should be phased out within five years, or when mining leases are about to expire, according to the committee. It was suggested that infrastructure and development projects be subjected to environmental clearance, and that ESA villages be involved in future project decision-making.
Stakeholder states deemed the notification to be too environmentally friendly.
In 2012, UNESCO designated the Western Ghats as a "World Natural Heritage Site." The Ghats, which are older than the Himalayas, are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile, and fish species, according to the organisation. It has been named one of the eight "hottest hotspots" of biological diversity on the planet.
WHAT IS ESZ?
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) of the Government of India has designated areas around Protected Areas, National Parks, and Wildlife Sanctuaries as Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas.
The Environment (Protection Act) of 1986 regulates activities in eco-sensitive zones, and no polluting industry or mine is permitted to develop in such areas.
The eco-sensitive zone could extend up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as a general rule. Even areas larger than 10 km in width can be included in the eco-sensitive zone if they have sensitive corridors, connectivity, and ecologically important patches that are important for landscape linkage.
Industries that are prohibited under the guidelines for establishing eco-sensitive zones around national parks and wildlife refuges are not permitted to operate in these areas.
Commercial mining, commercial firewood use, and major hydropower projects are all prohibited under the guidelines.
In these areas, activities such as tree felling, commercial use of natural water resources, including groundwater harvesting, and the construction of hotels and resorts are all regulated.
The main goal is to regulate certain activities in the vicinity of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in order to reduce the negative effects of such activities on the fragile ecosystem that surrounds the protected areas.
Many changes occur in the landscape as a result of industrialisation, urbanisation, and other developmental initiatives, which can sometimes lead to natural disasters such as earthquakes, flash floods, landslides, and cloudbursts.
The government has designated certain regions/areas endowed with unique plants, animals, and terrains as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and so on in order to preserve them.
Furthermore, areas adjacent to such protected areas have been designated as Eco-Sensitive Zones to reduce the impact of urbanisation and other development activities.
The National Wildlife Action Plan (NWAP) 2017-2031 aims to protect areas outside of the protected area network in order to prevent biodiversity fragmentation and destruction.
Declaring eco-sensitive zones around protected areas is intended to act as a "Shock Absorber" for the protected area. They'd also serve as a transition zone between areas with high protection and those with lower protection.
In light of overzealous development initiatives in fragile ecosystems, the protection of eco-sensitive zones has become increasingly important. The need of the hour is for a balanced, rational developmental approach.