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Biodiversity hotspot K'taka pays a high price for thoughtless govt actions

Biodiversity hotspot K'taka pays a high price for thoughtless govt actions

Bengaluru,  Karnataka, which is recognised as one of the 35 biodiversity hotspots in the world and one of the four in India, is headed towards climate catastrophe, warn environmentalists.

Environmentalist and founding member of the Foundation for Ecological Security Dr A.N. Yallappa Reddy stated that Karnataka is already starting to witness climate catastrophe.

"Karnataka has been facing a climate catastrophe. It happened in Bengaluru recently. The Western Ghats have been eroding in floods. Not a word has been spoken about what was being stated in the UN at COP-27," Yallappa Reddy said.

The state government has recently denotified 120 square kilometres of the Bannerghatta National Park forests located on the outskirts of Bengaluru for development, he says.

Detailing the destruction of forest cover taking place in the state, Yallappa Reddy said that recently Swami Malai and Devaragudda, one of the richest forest areas, has been leased out to Kudremukh for 50 years by the government.

"Ansi National Park in the Kali Tiger Project Area, which took shape during my tenure as conservator of forests, is one of the world's richest areas. A broad-gauge railway track, national highway and port is being developed for which lakhs and lakhs of trees are being cut," he stated.

For the Hubli-Karwar railway line, five lakh trees in virgin forests are being cut for importing coal and mines export. For the Mekedatu project, 3,000 to 4,000 acres of the Cauvery Sanctuary land will go under water to supply water to Bengaluru, Reddy informed.

"Bengaluru founder Kempe Gowda's 108-feet tall statue is being built by the state government. I don't know with what moral right they have built it. Kempe Gowda sacrificed his daughter-in-law to save a lake in Bengaluru. The lakes are being destroyed, mini forests destroyed in Bengaluru. Avenues of trees 500-700 years old have been cut. Since five years five to six lakh trees have been cut in Bengaluru alone," he claimed.

Yallappa Reddy stated that the five pledges taken at the COP-26 and COP-27 have been totally violated.

As per the official data, Karnataka is the sixth largest state in India accounting for 5.83 per cent of the geographical area of the country. The state is known for its rich biodiversity. The evergreen forests of the Western Ghats cover about 60 per cent of the total forest area. The recorded forest area (RFA) in the state is 38,284 square kms.

Karnataka supports about 10 per cent of the tiger population and 25 per cent of the elephant population of the country.

Karnataka ranks fourth among the top five states in terms of increase in forest cover. Karnataka's forest cover is about 22.61 per cent of the state's geographical area, says India State of Forest Report (ISFR), 2021, published by the Forest Survey of India.

However, the situation looks bleak, says Yallappa Reddy. Nearly 50 per cent of Ballary district has been robbed by mining, illegal and legal. "They are levying fines and regularizing the encroachments of forests, regularizing destruction of biodiversity," he said.

Environment activist S.R. Hiremath, who took on the mining mafia single-handedly resulting in the jailing of powerful mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy, explained that the government should have a policy of allowing minimum level mining.

The companies which take up mining should be made accountable to recreate the landscape which existed before mining. Intergenerational equity is possible only if action is taken, he said.

"If not, we all know about the extinction of the dinosaurs. This is the sixth extinction and human beings are first to get extinct. We are going towards it. Greed should be contained," Hiremath stressed.

"The Supreme Court took a noble decision by not entertaining the demand of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industry (FIMI), which demanded that the ceiling on mining should be removed. Unfortunately, the concerned authorities, the state governments as well as the central government stated the ceiling should be taken off," he said.

Yathish Baigampadi, an activist from coastal Karnataka, stated that while implementing any plan in the coastal region the government is not bothering to consider the experience of fishermen. The landscape is altering the coastlines. The shorelines which should not be altered are disturbed.

Neeraj Kamat, environmentalist and convenor of Uttista Bharata, opined that there should be a balance between development and preservation of the environment. Germany and France, which have closed nuclear plants, are now depending on Russia for fuel and the prices have gone up by 100 per cent. The people are feeling the heat, he says.

The country has a 140 crore population and a hike of prices by Rs 500 would badly hit those who earn between Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000. "We have to see our needs and ensure that geographical and demographical demands are met. Balance is important," Kamat stated.

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