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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Karnataka govt yet to act on forest department’s suggestion to declare defunct NGEF area as deemed forest

The Bengaluru south subdivision of the forest department had informed the Karnataka government that there were approximately 44,720 trees of 18 species inside the New Government Electrical Factory campus.

Written by Aksheev Thakur | Bengaluru |
November 24, 2021 6:35:41 pm
New Government Electrical Factory Hubli unit (picture used for representational purpose)

While the Karnataka government has not yet moved an inch in implementing former chief minister BS Yediyurappa’s proposal to convert the defunct New Government Electrical Factory (NGEF), Bengaluru unit into a tree park under the Bengaluru Mission 2022 programme, the official documents of the Karnataka forest department reveal that the state government was suggested by the department to declare the factory’s land as a deemed forest area.

Acting on the Karnataka High Court’s order of 2017 to enumerate the number of trees inside the campus, the Bengaluru south subdivision of the forest department informed the government that there were approximately 44,720 trees of 18 species. Based on the number of trees found on the campus, the division recommended the government to declare the area as a deemed forest.

In a letter dated November 24, 2017, a senior forest officer attached with the south division explained that the NGEF was shut down in early 2000 and the sprawling campus houses several trees. He apprised the government of several instances of smuggling of sandalwood trees which are predominantly found on the campus.

“Despite raising a compound wall surrounding the borders of NGEF, there are many instances of sandalwood trees being chopped, cut into small pieces and then smuggled illegally by thieves. The High Court order passed in 2017 directed the state government to utilise 119.6 acres of land by undertaking thick afforestation and tree plantation work, maintain ecological balance and improve the lung capacity for the garden city. For these reasons, the forest department must bring the land under them. The old buildings should be razed and saplings should be planted and declare the area as deemed forest,” the letter read.

Along with the letter, the division also informed the government about the number of tree species and attached the report with pictorial evidence.

“We have found 44,720 trees inside the campus. Sandal and teak plantations were also done by the forest department inside the NGEF campus. 70 per cent of the area is covered with trees and 30 per cent with defunct buildings. With the dwindling lung space in the city, it would be great to declare it as a deemed forest area. In fact, even the forest department has not bothered so far to take up these spots under the deemed forests list. Some citizens write to the department to consider it but it is yet to act on it. Meanwhile, the government wants to turn the area into some park,” a senior official from the forest department told The Indian Express.

NGEF used to manufacture pumps, electric motors and switch gears but the factory was shut down in early 2000 due to losses. Originally spread in 221.125 acres, the NGEF land was shrunk after the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) acquired part of it to build its depot and Baiyappanahlli Metro Terminal and the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) built a bus depot.

With the remaining 119.6 acres of land, the Karnataka High Court has ordered the state government to utilise it by undertaking thick forestation and tree plantation work.

The Supreme Court in TN Godavarman Thirumulpad vs Union of India (1997) emphasised that the word forest must be understood according to its dictionary meaning of the term irrespective of the nature of ownership and classification thereof.

In the past, Bangalore North lost several notified forest areas. 2054 acres of Mallegalvalley reserve forest was lost to Laggere and Yeshwanthpura areas, Mallathahalli reserve forest lost 285 acres for the development of Vishweshwaraiah layout, 100 acres of Hebbal plantations were diverted to make way for Hebbal veterinary college, 375 acres of Jakkur plantations were lost to flying school, 650 acres of Thindlu and Allasandra plantations and 344 acres of Kenchenahalli plantations were lost, 200 acres of Nagadevanahalli plantations were given to the government printing press and forest officers layout, 599 acres of Peenya plantations to the erstwhile HMT, 400 acres of Jarakabande sandal reserve and 140 acres of Machohalli reserve forest were utilised for infrastructural and defence projects.

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