Keep Off The Hesaraghatta Grassland!
In response to a PIL filed in December 2012 by the Arkavathi and Kumudvathy River Rejuvenation Trust (Arkavathu mathu Kumudvathy nadi Punaschetana Samithi in Kannada), in the Karnataka High Court, the division bench of the acting Chief Justice and Justice Nagarathna has halted construction plans for a theme park, film city and golf course that had been proposed across a 300 acre stretch of Hesaraghatta, the last remaining grassland in and around Bengaluru.
About the Campaign:
From inception, the campaign against these projects has been actively supported by Conservation India (www.conservationindia.org), which has reached out to the public and the media for support.
Photograph by Ramki Sreenivasan/Conservation India.
Grassland ecosystems are among the most neglected and misunderstood in the world, supporting several specialised species of flora and fauna. The Hesaraghatta landscape is a site for several wintering migrants from Europe and Central Asia, including several species of raptors. The critically endangered Lesser Florican Sypheotides indicus, endemic to the Indian subcontinent, was recently rediscovered here after a century. The grassland also acts as an important catchment area for the nearby Hesaraghatta lake and reservoir, which provide freshwater to the region in and around the city, and is fed by the Arkavathy river. The river basin has only recently been proposed for rejuvenation, and development activities of this scale could prove detrimental to the same, and could worsen the condition of the already-deteriorated lake. All these factors make Hesaraghatta a crucial, sensitive ecological zone.
Earlier last year, the well-meaning, but misguided Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) had covered half the land area of this grassland in saplings (below), hoping to forest the region. This short-sighted move was brought to a halt by conservationists, who were troubled by the lack of public awareness on the effects of altering and fragmenting such landscapes, but not before considerable damage was already done. This, along with the threats from littering by picnicking groups, highly damaging film shooting, vehicle and equipment testing by army/defence units, and more, have made Hesaraghatta highly vulnerable – a fact that was underlined in the public petition initiated by Mahesh Bhat, and passed on to the government via the Department of Information, which is proposing the tourism development project in the region.
The lack of response from the state government prompted the filing of the aforementioned PIL. Notices have been issued to the government, which has been asked to maintain status quo in the grassland till further orders.
We are in full agreement with the Planning Commission’s committee statement that “grasslands and deserts are the most neglected ecosystems by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), which looks after biodiversity conservation in India.” We hope that the final verdict will favour the environment and not mindless and insensitive development in a fragile ecosystem. Support the cause of Hesaraghatta by writing to the State Government of Karnataka.
Chief Secretary to Government
Department of Information,
Government of Karnataka,
Vidhana Soudha, Bengaluru.
Additional Chief Secretary to Government
Forest, Ecology & Environment Department,
Room No. 448, 4th Floor, M.S. Building, Bengaluru – 560001.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife)
Aranya Bhavan, 18th Cross, Malleswaram, Bengaluru – 560003.