The Karnataka government’s proposal to come up with a park larger than Cubbon Park at Jarakabande Kaval, known as JB Kaval, near Yelahanka has met with opposition from citizens. Last week Horticulture Minister N Munirathna met Forest Minister Umesh Katti and sought the forest department’s permission to go ahead with the plan.
According to the initial plans, the park will be developed with the coordination of horticulture and forest departments. JB Kaval already has a tree park, developed in 32 hectares of the land area belonging to Jarakabande B block reserve forest in 2015.
Environmentalists point to the state government’s guidelines regarding tree parks which state that ideally 5 to 15 hectares of land could be converted into tree parks but also clarify: “There is a temptation that the tree-park scheme is apt to protect forest land. Even though protection of forest land is desirable, achieving the same through the tree-park scheme, in general, is not appropriate.”
Krishna Datta N C, a resident of Yelahanka, along with local citizens, has started a campaign called #SaveJarakabande. An online petition on Change.org has also started to gather momentum against the proposal.
“This area has 89 species of trees planted and many between 1985 to present, some of the noteworthy trees here are jackfruit trees, hill goose trees, kadamba, beach almond, Indian beech, red sanders, eucalyptus, teak, Indian butter trees, and many more. It is also an abode to more than 120 species of birds, many species of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies to bees and wasps. We have seen wild boars, jackals and spotted deers and all this wildlife is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and the forest has its unique flora undergrowth. In the name of tree park heavy machinery is being used to destroy the secondary forests,” Datta said.
The Lakshman Rao Committee report on lakes recommended the creation of tree parks in disused and dried up lakes of Bengaluru. “It’s highly objectionable to create these tree parks in these remaining last vestiges of degraded forests into parks by pushing people into these forests to threaten the already endangered remaining flora and fauna in the urban setup. A lot of visitors come from various parts of Bengaluru to enjoy the natural beauty and minimum maintenance can be done by not disturbing the existing biodiversity and wildlife,” Datta added.
In 1901, Jarakabande Kaval was declared as a reserve forest, and in 1932, it was declared as a sandal reserve. “Article 47 of the constitution provides that “the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forest and wildlife of the country” hence the constitution has not provided the State the ownership of the resources of environment or forests, but the position of the state is that of a trustee, who is required to protect and improve these resources for the public at large,” the petition on Change.org read.
Co-founder of NGO Friends of Lakes, Ram Prasad commented that the vestiges of lung space in the city should be protected and not transformed for human enjoyment.
In the last 50 years, Bengaluru has lost a lot of reserve forests to urban development. Over 140 acres of Machohalli reserve forests were lost to industrial sites and tree parks. Similarly, 400 acres of Peenya plantations and 650 acres of Thindlu-Allasandra plantations were lost to highrises.