Green Minute News
Environmentalists in Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka, India have opposed the diversion of 46.88 hectares of grasslands in Basur Kaval Blackbuck Conservation Reserve and Bilwala Kawal for construction of Upper Bhadra Canal in Kadur taluk. They have appealed to Visveswaraya Jala Nigam Ltd to realign the present canal alignment and thereby, save the precious habitat of black bucks and other wildlife in this region.
The Bhadra canal project is being taken up for supply of water from the Bhadra Reservoir at Lakkavali to the drier areas of Tumakuru. In this regard, 31.57 hectares in Basur and 15.31 hectares in Bilwala Kavals have been proposed for diversion which is the prime habitat of black bucks in this part of the district.
Raising objections to the project, Shreedev Hulikere of WILDCAT-C, D V Girish of Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust and S Girijashankar, former state wildlife board member said these precious grasslands have been considered as non-forest lands only for the purpose of seeking approval for the canal project from the government.
They said, “As per the user agency, the land needed for the project were found to be either barren or under cultivation during their preliminary survey. Further, as per RTC, the lands are jointly owned by the revenue and forest departments. And in most cases, the forest lands needed for acquisition were found to be either barren or under cultivation. Finally, the area now finalized after due investigation for feasible alternative alignment majorly runs along the boundary of the forest.”
AMRIT MAHAL KAVAL
It was in 2012, the Basur Kaval was declared as a conservation reserve by the state government. As per Rule 33 of Karnataka Forest Rules1969, all Amrit Mahal Kavals are district forests. Therefore, the diversion of such big proportion of grasslands needs the permission of both Forest and Wildlife advisory boards. The diversion of nearly 50 hectares of Kavals in the last remaining patches of grasslands will further fragment the conservation reserve and also change the nature of grassland ecosystem. Further, the use of heavy machinery equipment for canal construction will permanently damage the fragile wildlife habitat and also pose danger to the survival of endemic and endangered species.
One of the best protected grasslands in the country, Amrit Mahal Kaval are being used by the Animal Husbandry department for rearing of the Amrit Mahal cattle breed. As per scientific research, grasslands are of high ecological importance and therefore, they should not be termed as fallow or barren. Apart from this, grasslands support a wide range of faunal species that includes Indian wolf, Indian fox, blackbucks and a variety of bird species that are endemic to grasslands. They are also a potential habitat for the Great Indian Bustard and the Lesser Florican.
Activists add that once Karnataka was home to four lakh acres of Amrit Mahalahal Kaval but today it has been reduced to a paltry and fragmented 60,000 acres. Over a period of time, the state government has released kaval lands for development projects, science cities, agriculture and rehabilitation of landless laborers in the state.