Bengaluru drinking water projects threaten only wildlife habitat in K’taka
September 25, 2022
The two mega drinking water projects planned by successive governments, the
Ettinahole and the Mekedatu project, will prove to be a death warrant for
the last remaining animal habitats in Karnataka’s Western Ghats and the
Environmentalists have warned that the sinking of 12,000 acres of the
Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and the Ettinahole project will strike the very
heart of the Western Ghats.
However, opposition Congress has declared it as a mission to implement the
Mekedatu project for providing drinking water to Bengaluru and the
surrounding areas. The Congress state President D.K. Shivakumar has
repeatedly stated that the implementation of the Mekedatu project was
inevitable and as soon as his party comes to power it will be implemented
without any further delay.
The Ettinahiole project involving the diversion of rivers was mooted by the
BJP government headed by former CM D.V. Sadananda Gowda. “Both projects
will destroy the core area and heighten the man-human conflict,” explains
retired senior bureaucrat and environmentalist Dr A.N. Yallappa Reddy.
Talking to IANS, Yallappa Reddy explained that the vast virgin forest
region is the only place where elephants flock. This is the regular
corridor for elephants from time immemorial. This is called ‘Gaja Aranya’
(elephant forests) and ‘Dandakaranya’ (thick forests), he said.
No one is thinking about recycling of water, which can solve the drinking
water problem in Bengaluru. “I have been observing the developments since
1962 as I was a bureaucrat. The human activities not only in the core areas
of the forests but in the periphery have increased.
“Core areas of forests, which are breeding centers of the wild animals,
have been lost. The mining activities, hydro-electric projects,
mini-hydro-electric projects have completely fragmented the forest area.
The government is liberal in allowing plunder. Vast areas of the ecosystem
have been wiped out and the core forest area is severely fragmented.
“The Forest Conservation Act and guidelines have been diluted by the
government. The mining has made the perennial water flows and the water
holes from where wildlife got the water, extinct. The Karnataka government
during the tenure of Late Ramakrishna Hegde had given 78 lakh hectares for
the forest department. Tragically, the present government is planning to
take back 6 lakh acres.
“The people who are taking forest lands are not tribes, but they are the
powerful landlords who have considerable influence. They indulge in
plantation, mining and commercial activities,” Yallappa Reddy explains.
The Bannerghatta National Park near Bengaluru was notified in 1978. Nearly
100 square kilometers of forests of Bannerghatta have been destroyed. It
was the biggest habitat for elephants. The elephants used to traverse in
the corridor from Tamil Nadu, Biligirirangana Betta in Chamarajanagar and
reach Bengaluru. They also reached elephant camps in Mysuru district and
mated with tamed female elephants.
“The famous group of five tuskers was called the Rowdy Ranga gang. The
group dominated for 12 years. Recently, there was a media report, where a
group of elephants entered a godown in Hassan, broke open the door and
carried rice bags into the forests. This is disturbing and indicative of
future human-animal conflict,” Yallappa Reddy says.
Yallappa Reddy has filed a PIL before the Supreme Court regarding the loss
of the forest land. The court is yet to take up the petition. “I rendered
my services as the Secretary of the Environment Department. I am hopeful
that the Apex court takes up the inquiry,” he says.