Just 20 kilometers from Bengaluru stands a prime habitat, Bannerghatta National Park (BNP), for several species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds including the endangered Asian Elephant, Indian Gaur, Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer, Leopard, Wild Dog and even the Tiger.

However, the BNP has always been susceptible to the land sharks and real estate giants who want to usurp the land and stretch the urbanisation by encroaching the last lung space of the city.

The Government Survey No 69 of Shivanahalli Village Ragi Halli Panchayat ,Anekal taluk, Jigani Hobli Bangalore South is a crucial wildlife corridor and has been recorded as an elephant corridor by ministry of environment ,forests , Karnataka Forest Department and various institutions like Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have studied the habitat and have declared this as a deemed elephant corridor.

In 2011 and 2012, the then Deputy commissioner MK Aiyappa transferred over 1000 acres of lands under the revenue department to the Karnataka Forest department citing the importance of protection of this habitat for wildlife movement.

Despite this no action was taken by the wildlife department to protect the wildlife corridor. This ultimately resulted in the usurping of gomala land by the real estate giants who with the connivance of forest officials got the fake documents to exploit the forest land.

Bhanu Prakash R, co-ordinator of the Bannerghatta Nature Conservation Trust (BNCT) that has been fighting illegalities to protect park said, “We have been regularly keeping vigil of this area and have reported illegal activities to the authorities diligently on various issues that have caused threats to the habitat in this region, The following are the chain of events that have happened in the he Government Survey No 69 of Shivanahalli Village Ragi Halli Panchayat ,Anekal taluk, Jigani Hobli Bangalore South.”

“Mr Aiyappa, the then DC had issued instructions for the handover of this land to the forest department from the revenue department but the Forest department failed to do so on the pretext that the land was already encroached. This communication was made by the Forest Department to the then DC. The Locals have on numerous occasions attempted to grab parcels of land in this location and BNCT has filed a case in the Special Court to [prevent Land Grabbing in the office of the DC,” he explained.

In the month of August the locals along with some untoward elements tried to get the land ploughed and arrived in large numbers to grab the land by force. The police and the Forest department came and vacated them and the Social Forestry division planted 250 tree saplings in the same location under the guidance of RFO Krishna.

The Locals then tried to exert political pressure on the Forest department and though further planting was planned it was not completed. On September 3, the 60 Karnataka Reserve Police Force personnel accompanied by Mr Prabhakar, Assistant Commissioner of Police STF) planted 250 saplings in the land adjacent to the area where the Forest department led by Mr Krishna had planted saplings a month prior to that.

However, the same night the locals arrived in an Auto Rickshaw and destroyed all the planted saplings. Their exit from the spot was captured on a CCTV of a nearby resident.

BNCT immediately informed the Forest department and the local Police. The Forest department sent their personnel for inspection who took photographs as well as GPS coordinates of the crime area.

In a letter dated June 23, addressed to the RFO, a whistleblower has apprised about the worsening situation wherein miscreants have tried to encroach forest land.

“They have in fact even come in large numbers along with women and tried to plough the forest land with a tractor on two occasions and JCB on one occasion. The land in this area is a deemed forest land and as per the instruction of the DC issued in 2016 should be in possession of the forest land,” the letter read.

Written by: Aksheev Thakur

About the Author: Aksheev Thakur has been working as a defence and environment correspondent in Bangalore. An alumni of Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai he has worked with major news publications. His stories on the illegal quarrying and Lake encroachments in Bangalore were followed by the major publications.