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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Efforts to restore land for elephant corridor near Bengaluru in limbo for 10 years

A land survey ordered in May by revenue authorities is now expected to resolve the land conflicts in the deemed forest region -which has been witness to many man-animal conflicts.

Written by Aksheev Thakur | Bengaluru |
Updated: September 2, 2021 7:37:08 am
The land in this area is deemed forest land and as per the instruction of the deputy commissioner‘s office issued in 2016 should be in the possession of the forest department.

Nearly 10 years after over 1000 acres of revenue land around the Bannerghatta National Park, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, was identified as being crucial to an elephant corridor, and allotted to the Karnataka forest department, local disputes over ownership of cultivated land in the region have prevented the restoration of the corridor.

A land survey ordered in May by revenue authorities is now expected to resolve the land conflicts in the deemed forest region -which has been witness to many man-animal conflicts.

Acting on a 2011 Lok Adalat order to transfer 1,129 acres of government land at Shivanahalli village in Anekal taluk to the forest department, for the development of an elephant corridor, the Bengaluru Urban deputy commissioner, J Manjunath, ordered a survey of the land in May this year. It has however now come to the light that though the survey is underway land encroachers have started farming in the same area.

The 1,129 acres of land which will be transferred to the forest department for the development of the elephant corridor falls within the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of the Bannerghatta National Park (BNP). The catchment area of a lake that falls within the ESZ has also been cultivated by encroachers.

According to the Bengaluru Urban DC the land survey will be completed soon and land will be transferred to the forest department.

In 2011 and 2012, the then deputy commissioner M.K. Aiyappa transferred over 1,129 acres of the land under the revenue department to the state forest department citing the need for protection of the land as a habitat for wildlife movement.

Despite this correspondence, no action was taken by the forest department to protect the land transferred by the revenue department. The ramification on the wildlife corridor was such that those with vested interests, in connivance with the forest officials, have taken advantage of the ambiguity over the possession of the land by getting fake documents to prove their ownership over the land, say officials.

The land in this area is deemed forest land and as per the instruction of the deputy commissioner‘s office issued in 2016 should be in the possession of the forest department.

The members of the NGO, Bannerghatta Nature Conservation Trust (BNCT) were threatened by locals named Anjane Gowda and Devaraj who claim to own the land (survey number 69) for highlighting the issue of encroachment to the government.

On November 19, 2020 the staffers from the forest department had an altercation with the encroachers who claimed to own the land. However, the encroachers had to leave after the officials said unless a joint survey is conducted by the DC, forest and revenue departments the ownership cannot be established.

Incidentally, similar conflicts exist over land in the over nine lakh hectares of deemed forest land in Karnataka. There has been a strong push from elected representatives in conflict regions to denotify nearly 60 percent of deemed forests in favor of cultivators and others. The move has been opposed by forest and environment authorities citing the Supreme Court’s supervision of issues coming under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

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