As part of its Singanayakanahalli lake revival project under Hebbal-Nagawara Valley Project, Karnataka Forest Department has issued a notice for the cutting of over 6000 trees. The Hebbal-Nagawara Valley Project is aimed at recharging water levels in arid areas of Karnataka. In its notification dated June 14 2021, the Karnataka Forest Department has given a notice period of 10 days for public consultations regarding the issue, inviting criticism and protest from many environmental activists and local residents.
People who oppose this move are critical of the felling of trees which might include Acacia and Pongame oil trees of the area despite the Forest Department’s claims that only Jaali Mara trees in the area will be axed. This move would also impact the peacocks, birds, snakes and other animals of the region. Peacocks especially belong to the Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. Some of the trees in the area are over 40 years old and cutting them will impact Bengaluru’s microclimate. In an article published by the Indian Express, activist, lake expert and co-founder of Friends of Lakes, Ramprasad V has been quoted as saying, “I do not understand the forest department’s logic. Trees and lakes can very much co-exist. Desilting can be done without cutting these trees, and they can be an integral part of the lake and save the ecosystem in the area.”
The 10 day period of consultation is insufficient during a global pandemic. Experts need more time to make their informed recommendations in order to stop an environmental travesty. Ironically, as pointed out by FridaysforFuture.in, five years ago a lot of the trees in the region were planted by the Forest Department itself. These trees were planted under the social forestry initiative around Amani lake in Singanayakanahalli in order to help the environment around the lake.
Karnataka Forest Department’s major decision comes at a time when many citizens continue to struggle with COVID-19 related travesties. To expect local activists and experts to engage with the issue within 10 days during a pandemic is a gross misuse of power that needs to be kept in check.
What can you do to help?
A petition has been set up on Jhatkaa.org which you can sign as a citizen to object to the cutting of 6000+ trees. You can also send an email to the Karnataka Forest Department. The petition demands an extension of the deadline for submission of objections on the Hebbal-Nagawara Valley Project; it asks the Forest Department to not approve the cutting of 6000+ trees and to consult experts in order to ensure that lake rejuvenation projects don’t come at the cost of the ecology of the area. The deadline for submitting these demands continues to be June 24th 2021.
: Isheeta is a features writer and a student of Gender Studies at Ambedkar University, Delhi. She enjoys dissecting popular culture through a gendered lens, adding new books to her overflowing book rack and sipping coffee in quiet corners. She is currently an Intern at Kractivist.org.