After the government proposed to come up with a 370 acre tree park, which requires the diversion of land within J B Kaval Reserve Forest, citizens on October 13 wrote a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, officials from the Forest Department, Horticulture Minister N Munirathna and Forest Minister Umesh Vishwanath Katti to drop the idea of conversion.
Former Indian Forest Service official Dr U V Singh explained that forest and tree parks are different landscapes. “Forests are non-human centric while tree parks are human-centric. Tree parks cannot be made at the cost of reserve forests. It takes thousands of years for a natural forest to grow and reach the climatic climax. We have already lost a huge chunk of forest areas,” he added.
Wildlife activist Joseph Hoover said, “Last year a lake, measuring 5.89 acre bordering J B Kaval metamorphosed into a housing layout, although a Supreme Court judgment underlines that a lake has to remain a lake. Now, the horticulture department wants to convert the remaining forest landscape into a park. The Forest Department is being forced to greenlight the project though the Karnataka Forest Act and Forest Conservation Act does not allow the forest landscape to be converted into a park.”
In the past 60 years, over 4,947 acre of reserve forest area has been diverted for developmental activities in Bangalore North. A huge parcel of these lands went for non-forestry purposes like setting up of universities, defence establishments and industries.
More than 10 layouts have come up on the forest lands. Forest officials say that most of the lands were not notified and they are tallying their records with the Revenue Department to know if the lands were mutated. “Apart from 4,947, more than 1,000 acre forest land in Bengaluru is encroached. We are in the process of recovering the non-mutated land,” a senior forest official said.
As much as 2,054 acre of Mallegalvalley Reserve Forest was lost to Laggere and Yeshwanthpura areas, Mallathahalli reserve forest lost 285 acre for the development of Vishweshwaraiah layout, 100 acre of Hebbal plantations were diverted to make way for Hebbal veterinary college, 375 acre of Jakkur plantations were lost to a flying school, 650 acre of Thindlu and Allasandra plantations and 344 acre of Kenchenahalli plantations, 400 acre of Jarakabande Sandal Reserve, 140 acre of Machohalli reserve forest were lost, 200 acre of Nagadevanahalli plantations were given to the government printing press and forest officers layout, 599 acre of Peenya plantations to the erstwhile HMT.