The Karnataka High Court last week has restrained any new commercial or development activities, within 10 km radius of Bannerghatta National Park (BNP), until the finalization of the draft notification on the declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ).
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar passed the interim order while hearing a petition filed by Bannerghatta Nature Conservation Trust. It said "There will be an interim relief as prayed for. We clarify that the interim relief will operate prospectively and it will not affect the commercial and developmental activities which are already undertaken in the 10 kilometer radius around Bannerghatta National Park."
The plea states "The inaction and unduly delay in finalization of the 2016 draft notification on the part of the State government has led to wanton uncertainty regarding the management, regulation and protection of the park and the biodiversity therein. Taking advantage of, the region has seen mushrooming of developmental activities like bottling industries, private layouts for residential purpose and asphalting of roads in the deemed ESZ area."
A draft notification was issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on June 15, 2016, declaring 268.96 sq km, ranging from 100 metres at some locations to 4.5 km in a few areas around the park, as the ESZ. The same, was allowed to lapse as no objection or suggestion was received by the MoEF. Subsequently, the Centre on October 31, 2018, issued a fresh notification declaring 168.84 sq km, ranging from 100 metres to 1 km area around the park, as the ESZ.
The plea states that in the event the ESZ area of BNP is reduced in accordance with the 2018 draft notification, it would cause irreversible fragmentation and damage to the fragile landscape and permanent ecological destruction,of the pristine environment.
Further, it says that "Inclusion of areas as enunciated in the 2016 draft notification is crucial to ensure movement of elephants from BNP to Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and beyond to other contiguous protected areas. The reduction in the area and extent of ESZ around BNP has also resulted in the exclusion of eco-sensitive areas around the narrowest parts of BNP, which are Shivanahalli, Gattigunda and Therubeedi, as shown in the 2018 draft notification. These eco-sensitive areas are crucial for the long-term conservation of BNP."
The plea prays for directions to Union Government to finalize the 2016 draft notification as the final notification without any alteration. Direct the government to withdraw the 2018 notification and to restrain any developmental activity in the deemed ESZ area of BNP. The court while issuing notice to the respondents adjourned the hearing to March 3.