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BANNERGHATTA ELEPHANT CORRIDOR SURVEY – WILL THE JUMBOS HAVE A FREE RUN SOON?

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By Meera Bhardwaj

Will elephants and other wildlife in the Bannerghatta National Park region get its Elephant Corridor and move around freely without any impediments? Well, the latest initiative of the state revenue department to identify and secure the Elephant Corridor has awakened some hopes with conservationists and activists welcoming the move to survey the corridor area. This will go a long way in reducing Human-Elephant Conflict in these regions and also bring relief to farmers who have faced crop raids by jumbos now and then. 

The site inspection by deputy commissioner (Bengaluru urban) and other concerned officials for securing the Elephant Corridor is a welcome step, activists say. 

On Monday, revenue officials inspected both revenue and gomala lands falling in Anekal taluk. Further, officials will prepare a report based on study of existing habitations, vacant lands, encroachments, land grants in the corridor area. This report will be submitted to the state government for a final decision. 

However, this is easier said than done as survey work has to be taken up over an undulating and forested area of more than 1000 acres. This is made up of revenue and gomala lands, habitations, grabbed lands and land grants made by successive governments in the last few decades. 

Presently, the Elephant Corridor is hampered by so many impediments that it has restricted the free movement of elephants from Bannerghatta to Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, says Siddharth Goenka, Karnataka State Wildlife Board member. “This is a matter of serious concern and must be addressed in a comprehensive manner so that the corridors are restored to their original width and length. These lands fall just adjacent to the Bannerghatta National Park and the land inspection is just a beginning of the survey work.” 

Once a joint survey is taken up by both revenue and forest departments, they will have to identify and mark the human habitations, grantee lands and also assess if any rehabilitation measures are required. The area in Survey No: 69 has to be properly surveyed, identified and cleared of all encroachments by revenue department and then only handed over to forest department for restoration of the corridor.

In fact, this survey number in Shivanahalli village of Anekal taluk comprising about 1129 acres is considered a crucial corridor land that has to be freed of all its encumbrances. Deputy Commissioner J Manjunath has already directed Tahsildar Dinesh to conduct a joint survey with the forest department and check for all encroachments. Earlier, forest officials had sent in a proposal to the revenue department for releasing this land to forest department for formation of the elephant corridor.

It was in 1970s that land grants were made to farmers and this has to be verified and checked. According to Revenue officials, the landscape of Survey No: 69 has a rich forest like habitat. “Only a few revenue encroachments have to be cleared. However, some cases are pending in courts. We are looking at these issues and after the survey is completed, a report will be prepared for submission to the government.” 

Forest officials stressed when the natural way of elephants is blocked, conflict results. This is an area which sees heavy elephant movement and if somebody clears vegetation in this area, it results in big problems. This area of more than 1000 acres is a deemed forest land and also comprises of gomala land under the Revenue Department but part of an Elephant Corridor. 

A decade ago, the then DC had mooted the proposal for handing over the land to forest department. But this did not happen for lack of initiative by both the departments. So, now with this new initiative, if the movement of jumbos has to be made easier and smoother, all encroachments have to be cleared in this area and handed over to the forest department.

Vijay Nishanth, urban conservationist adds the joint survey should be done soon so that all encroachments and land grant issues are properly put in the public domain. This should be done fast before vested interests and unscrupulous elements take advantage. Due to drastic reduction of ESZ of Bannerghatta, the National Park has suffered but this can be offset to some extent by restoration of the Elephant Corridor which has been used by wildlife for centuries.”

Declared as a national park in 1974, Bannerghatta has an area of 260.5 square kilometres. But for decades, this Elephant Corridor that was identified has been disturbed and fragmented by diversion, human settlements and agriculture lands. For a long time now, this has been affecting the free movement of the jumbos. Now, if the proposal of the forest department is accepted and 1000 acres in Survey No: 69 is handed over to them, it will go a long way in consolidating the Elephant Corridor for free movement of wildlife from one protected area to another.