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Theme park in Hesaraghatta ruffles feathers

Staff Reporter
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Project will ruin habitat of rare wildlife and kill a catchment of Arkavathi, say naturalists

Last green patch:Naturalists say that besides being a waste of public money, the project will also destroy a unique grassland habitat.— Photo: S. SUBRAMANYA
Last green patch:Naturalists say that besides being a waste of public money, the project will also destroy a unique grassland habitat.— Photo: S. SUBRAMANYA

The last surviving grassland in the city, Hesaraghatta, is being threatened again — this time by a theme park and ‘film city' proposed for a landscape that supports a unique biodiversity, including migratory birds.

A 350-acre area has been earmarked for either a theme park or a film city, or both, according to officials at the Department of Tourism. The project finds mention in the State Budget, which proposed a “theme park” to be set up under public-private partnership in Hesaraghatta. The budget also speaks of a “wellness circuit” covering Bangalore and Mysore, “coastal circuit” and a heritage circuit.

Not long ago, environmentalists were alarmed by a Rs. 140-crore ‘tree-planting' project embarked on by the BDA in the Hesaraghatta grassland, which, they alleged, would destroy the habitat of wintering raptors such as harriers, tawny eagles and short-eared owls.

The official said that a detailed project report was now being prepared for the project and that the tourism department was waiting for a response from investors. “The 350 acres could be used for either one or two projects depending upon the size of each. We are waiting to hear from the investors about the size and nature of the project.”

Killing a catchment

Meanwhile, naturalists, birdwatchers and wildlife photographers who have made Hesaraghatta their haunt, are naturally concerned.

Leading bird expert S. Subramanya points out that the land slated for the theme park was the very space where trees were planted in a project that ran up to crores of rupees. “Besides being a waste of public money, the project will also destroy a unique grassland habitat, a home for some rare wildlife.”

A checklist of wildlife prepared by Dr. Subramanya lists jackals, the Indian fox and 133 species of birds, including migratory birds of prey, in the grassland. The globally threatened lesser florican was spotted here after 100 years last December.

Says photographer Mahesh Bhat, who lives in Hesaraghatta: “On the one hand, they have called for tenders to remove silt from the canals and tanks around Arkavathi river in order to rejuvenate them. And on the other, they are killing one of Arkavathi's main catchments, Hesaraghatta.”

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