Campaign to save Bengaluru's last remaining grassland gathers ground

Campaign to save Bengaluru's last remaining grassland gathers ground
Representative image (IANS)
A campaign demanding that Bengaluru's Hesaraghatta area, which has the last remaining large grassland expanse, be declared a conservation reserve, has gathered steam with nature lovers, wildlife activists, and NGOs pitching in to save it from becoming a concrete jungle.
The State Wildlife Board was expected to take a call on the fate of the Hesaraghatta grasslands on Monday. However, sources said that the meeting, to have been chaired by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, has been deferred and no further communication has been made to environmentalists in this regard. Sources said that the meeting is likely to take place soon.
The nature lovers are fearing that the land is likely to be turned into a concrete jungle if a development project is approved in the coming days.
The call has been given to join the movement to let the leaders know that they can protect the Hesaraghatta grasslands. The petition in this regard by is supported by 66,813 nature lovers and the public.
Talking to IANS, environment activist Yallappa Reddy said that he had written several open letters to the Chief Minister over the issue. "The bureaucrats have not let CM Bommai open those letters, they are finding their ways to dustbin," he alleged.
About 3,000 acres of the grasslands have been given to the central horticulture farms, and hundreds of acres have been given to cattle and piggery breeding centres by the state government. These stretches of lands have been put to good use.
Apart from this, the remaining stretch has been subjected to all kinds of mutilation, destruction and mining has been the biggest culprit. As a result of these activities, Hesarughatta Lake, which was supplying clean water, has dried, Yallappa Reddy says.
Now, the government wants this exploration of remaining land by the real estate sector - which should not happen at any cost, he said.
Conservation India is also a partner in this cause and the petition has been addressed to the Chief Minister and the Karnataka State WildLife Board.
The petition submitted in this regard said that on the periphery of Bengaluru city is the Hesaraghatta lake bed which spans an area of about 1,912 acres. The 356 acres of the landscape surrounding the lakebed is the last remaining grassland habitat in the Bengaluru region.

The plan to protect these grasslands by declaring it a conservation reserve was rejected by the State Board for Wildlife on January 20, 2021, citing commercial reasons.
The state Forest Department, along with the Animal Husbandry department, had chalked out a proposal for declaring the 5,010-acre land area as "Greater Hesaraghatta Grassland Conservation Reserve" and placed it before the Board but it was rejected.
Around 235 species of birds, some of them listed as endangered or vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, glide across the area's sky. A whopping 400 species of insects, of which nearly 30 have been described as new to science by entomologists, and 100 species of butterflies, including the very rare Lilac Silverline (Cigaritis lilacinus), have chosen this land as their breeding spot.
A paper published in 2013 suggests that the lakebed vegetation is in transition. "From being a true aquatic community, the vegetation in the lakebed is undergoing a process of 'ecological succession' and is currently a grassland-savannah-woodland complex," it said.
Moreover, the Hesaraghatta tank is one of the two major water reservoirs of the Arkavathy River. And with the Yettinahole river diversion project, lakes like Hesaraghatta would be augmented to provide water to rural Bengaluru.
Scientists believe that Hesaraghatta grasslands and surrounding areas are under pressure from various human activities that are bound to increase if any conservation intervention is delayed.
The Karnataka High Court, following the petition by environmentalists Vijay Nishanth, M.R. Seetharam and others, has given directions to the State WildLife Board and the state government not to step back from declaring the Hesarughatta grasslands as conserved land and make a decision in this regard.