Karnataka Environment and Forest Minister Eshwar Khandre on Thursday said Bengaluru has witnessed a reduction of about 500 hectares of green cover, with 2,871 acres of forest land being encroached.
Responding to a question during the Question Hour in the Legislative Assembly, he cited encroachment of forest land and rapid urbanisation among the main reasons for man-wildlife conflicts.
”In Bengaluru more than 2,500 acres of valuable forest land has been encroached. Out of that, 403 acres has been cleared. 673 — 64A (of the Karnataka Forest Act) cases are in the courts. In 18 cases, the High Court has given a stay,” Khandre said.
He said, ”In Bengaluru about 500 hectares of green cover has been reduced. My appeal to legislators from Bengaluru and all other members in the House is to cooperate for clearing encroachments, so that animals coming out into the city and leading to man and wildlife conflicts can be reduced.” The minister was responding to a question raised by Bommanahalli MLA Satish Reddy, about the leopard, whose sighting created a scare in parts of Bengaluru city, being shot dead by forest officials on November 1.
To prevent menace in Bengaluru, elephant and leopard task forces have been formed, Khandre said. Wild animals have been entering cities, with an increase in their population. Also, with the human population increasing, there is a decrease in the forest cover due to rampant urbanisation, he said.
In Bengaluru there is about 8,900 hectares or 18,000 acres of forest cover; out of this 2,871 acres of forest land has been encroached, and 1,051 cases of encroachment have been registered.
Animal corridors are getting lost due to urban infrastructures such as peripheral ring roads, among others. Along with that, solid waste like meat and bones being disposed of on the outskirts of the city are attracting wild animals like leopards from the forest, he said.
”Along with the forest department, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and other civic bodies have to work together to stop it,” the minister said.
Satish Reddy said the forest officials put in all efforts to catch the leopard on November 1, but they did not even have a net to catch it and had to get it from private parties. There seemed to be a shortage of equipment and thermal drone cameras to catch the leopard and even the team had come from Mysuru.
Further stating that even the tranquilizer darts shot at the leopard did not work, the legislator lamented that, if a city like Bengaluru has to face this, it seems as though there is no protection for humans or animals here.
The minister, responding to this, said steps have been taken towards providing nets, safety gear required and training for the leopard task force.
He said, tranquilizer darts, which are largely imported, are administered by veterinary doctors depending on the weight of the wild animal and other related factors, and some times, despite darting the drug doesn’t get released into the animal.
”After all the attempts to capture the leopard that day did not bear fruitful results, as the animal attacked four people. It had to be shot. All procedures were followed…On the way to Bannerghatta for treatment, it died,” he added.
Several legislators too sought to raise the wild animal menace in their respective constituencies.
Responding to BJP MLA Sunil Kumar’s question on whether the forest department is concerned over animals or humans, Khandre said, ”the government is committed to protect human life and wild animals.” He also said all suggestions made by legislators to the curb wild animal menace will be considered.