By MK Ashoka
Bangalore, Sep 25 (SocialNews.XYZ) The two mega clean water projects planned by successive governments, the Ettinahole project and the Mekedatu project, will prove to be a death sentence for the last remaining wildlife habitats in the Western Ghats of the Karnataka and the Cauvery Shrine.
Environmentalists have warned that the 12,000 acre sinking of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and the Ettinahole project will strike at the very heart of the Western Ghats.
However, the Opposition Congress has made it its mission to implement the Mekedatu project to supply drinking water to Bengaluru and surrounding areas. State Congress Speaker DK Shivakumar has repeatedly said that the implementation of the Mekedatu project is inevitable and as soon as his party comes to power, it will be implemented without further delay.
The Ettinahiole project involving the diversion of rivers has been mooted by the BJP government led by former CM DV Sadananda Gowda. “Both projects will destroy the core area and escalate human-human conflict,” says retired senior civil servant and environmentalist Dr. AN Yallappa Reddy.
Speaking to IANS, Yallappa Reddy explained that the vast region of rainforest is the only place where elephants flock. This has been the regular corridor of elephants since time immemorial. It is called ‘Gaja Aranya’ (elephant forests) and ‘Dandakaranya’ (thick forests), he said.
No one thinks of water recycling which can solve drinking water problem in Bangalore. “I have observed the developments since 1962 as a bureaucrat. Human activities not only in the central areas of the forests but also in the periphery have increased.
“The core areas of the forests, which are breeding centers for wild animals, have been lost. Mining activities, hydroelectric projects, mini hydroelectric projects have completely fragmented the forest area. The government is liberal in allowing looting. areas of the ecosystem have been wiped out and the central forest area is severely fragmented.
“The Forest Conservation Act and guidelines have been watered down by the government. Karnataka during the tenure of the late Ramakrishna Hegde had given 78 lakh hectares for the forest department.Tragically, the current government is planning to take back 6 lakh acres.
“People who take forest land are not tribes, but they are the powerful landowners who have considerable influence. They engage in plantation, mining and trading activities,” says Yallappa Reddy.
Bannerghatta National Park near Bengaluru was notified in 1978. Nearly 100 square kilometers of Bannerghatta forests have been destroyed. It was the largest habitat for elephants. The elephants crossed in the corridor of Tamil Nadu, Biligirirangana Betta in Chamarajanagar and reached Bengaluru. They also reached elephant camps in Mysuru district and mated with tamed female elephants.
“The famous group of five tuskers was called the Rowdy Ranga gang. The band dominated for 12 years. This is disturbing and indicative of a future conflict between man and animal,” says Yallappa Reddy.
Yallappa Reddy filed a PIL in the Supreme Court regarding the loss of forest land. The court has not yet heard the petition. “I have rendered my services as Secretary of the Department of the Environment. I am hopeful that the Apex Court will take over the investigation,” he says.