Bengaluru: Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa has asked union environment minister Prakash Javadekar requesting for a reduction in the buffer zone of Bannerghatta National Park in Bengaluru.

Also read: Bengaluru’s Bannerghatta Biological Park names tiger cub after Hima Das

Yes, you heard it right! A letter dated February 1, written by the chief minister of Karnataka on the same, has surfaced among journalists and environmentalists, which says that the eco-sensitive zone around Bannerghatta National Park will be reduced by 100 sq km. 

The CM, in the letter, has stated that the delay in notifying the eco-sensitive zone has been affecting development in the area. The letter notes that the ministry for environment, forests and climate change had published a draft notification of ESZ of 168.84 sq km, with distances varying from 100 metres to 1 km around the boundary, which was recommended for finalisation during the 33rd ESZ Expert Committee meeting held in February last year.

Current situation: 

The Bannerghatta National Park has a buffer zone of 269 sq km, which the BJP-led Karnataka government wants to reduce to just 169 sq km and extend the eco-sensitive zone to a maximum of 4.5 km from 100 m around the boundary. 

If the eco-sensitive zone around Bannerghatta National Park is reduced:

Environmentalist Suresh Kumar spoke to Asianet Newsable and said that if the eco-sensitive zone is reduced, then the source of oxygen supply and rain for drinking water will also be reduced. He also criticised the Yediyurappa government for "their unreasonable thinking".

Forest department in the hands of a thief? 

Suresh Kumar also added that the chief minister has handed the forest department into the hands of "a thief", who is booked in a number of cases. "While appointing a minister like Anand Singh, Yediyurappa should have thought about whether the particular department is in safe hands," he said.  

A petition has been filed at the Karnataka high court claiming that the allocation of the ministry of forests, environment and ecology to BS Anand Singh by the chief minister is "arbitrary, without application of mind, and is in absolute conflict of interest as Anand Singh has business interests in mining among others". This petition, in the public interest, seeks to declare the allocation "null and void" due to "conflict of Interest". 

Anand Singh, however, spoke to the media, and said that he would speak to the CM as well as the centre to retain Bannerghatta National Park's buffer zone of 269 sq km claiming that "environment is important". Regarding the cases, Singh said he would reply in due course of time.

Slamming the ruling government, Karnataka Congress leader Dinesh Gundurao said this new plan is set in place to benefit mining companies and those in the real estate. He also questioned how the reduction in the buffer zone of Bannerghatta National Park in Bengaluru will help in development? "In fact, earlier, BJP MPs had opposed this move when it was proposed by the then government. Now, we too will surely oppose it. We need to preserve the environment.," he added.

PM Narendra Modi talks and plans about climate change:

At a time when PM Narendra Modi is travelling to different foreign countries and speaking about India's climate change goals and action plans, our eco-sensitive zone around Bannerghatta National Park is being compromised. "Is this what we should hear from a Prime Minister?" asked Suresh Kumar. 

BJP MPs' contradiction with then CM: 

When governments under Siddaramaiah and HD Kumaraswamy proposed a similar reduction, BJP MPs PC Mohan, Tejasvi Surya and Rajeev Chandrasekhar opposed the proposal. They insisted that the full area of 268.96 km be retained as an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ).