All eyes are on the Centre after thousands of citizens sent their objections against the draft notification that would trim the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around Bannerghatta National Park by over 100 sq.km.
The notification, issued on October 30, gives citizens 60 days to file objections. By Saturday, nearly 15,000 persons had signed an online petition on change.org calling for revocation of the draft notification, and instead follow the original notification. On Act Alert, another online petition website, the campaign by Jhatkaa.org has nearly 11,500 signatories.
In 2016, the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) had earmarked an ESZ spread over 268.96 sq.km., the protective layer, which prohibits hazardous development, was trimmed to 168.8 sq.km. earlier this year.
For many citizens and conservationists, the reduction in the ESZ means opening more areas around the national park for quarrying and real estate development.
United Bengaluru , which started the petition, has approached Resident Welfare Associations, among others, to join the campaign. “We have sent an objection with over 500 signatories while many RWAs too have sent their objections,” says Suresh N S from United Bengaluru.
Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar met Union Environment Minister Harshavardhan to share his concerns about the new draft notification.
Vijay Nishanth, a conservationist who has been campaigning against mining in Bannerghatta National Park, said, “Overall, there are over 45,000 signatures against the draft notification. We are confident that the MoEF will relent, as it becomes clear that citizens are against this notification.”
Even if the notification goes through despite the opposition, the activist says that the process has seen a strong mobilisation of citizens in Bengaluru. “We will protest on the streets if the notification goes through. There is awareness and angst among people against the proposal. Even schools and colleges are with us on this,” says Nishanth.