The Karnataka Biodiversity Board has decided to declare four more areas in the State as biodiversity heritage sites.
Chairman of the Board, Ananth Hegde Ashisara, told The Hindu that the board, at a meeting last month, passed a resolution to declare Antaragange Betta in Kolar; Aadi Narayana Swamy Betta in Chickballapur; Mahima Ranga Betta in Nelamangala, Bengaluru; and the Urumbi area on the Kumaradhara river basin in Dakshina Kannada as biodiversity heritage sites. Biodiversity heritage sites are considered unique and fragile ecosystems that can be marine ecosystems, coastal and inland waters, or terrestrial areas.
Mr. Ashisara said Antaragange Betta has a unique and perennial water source flowing all through the year, and Aadi Narayana Swamy Betta in Gudibande taluk, Chickballapur, had many dry-belt species protected by locals. Mahima Ranga Betta is a prominent lung space surviving in Bengaluru.
Urumbi area in Kadaba taluk of Dakshina Kannada has a fragile environmental system and is located on the banks of the river Kumaradhara. There was a move by a private company to set up a 24 MW hydroelectric power project across the river in the same area a decade ago. But environmental activists, including Kumaradhara Parisara Samrakshana Samiti and Vruksha Laksha Andolana, launched a series of agitations against it and ensured that the project did not come to fruition. The Centre for Ecological Sciences, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, too had recommended that the project be shelved.
The IISc, in its report titled ‘Kumaradhara river basin, Karnataka Western Ghats: Need for conservation and sustainable use’, prepared in April 2013, had said that if the project were to be implemented, an estimated 47 plant species endemic to the Western Ghats would face the threat of submersion. Of them, three species were in the “critically endangered” list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and three other species were in the “endangered” list.
The report said that the project should be shelved, considering the threat to the aquatic biodiversity in the Kumaradhara. The river had 56 different fish species, of which 23 were endemic, 11 vulnerable, and eight endangered as per the IUCN red list of threatened species.
The IISc report also stated that the project would submerge 1,882 hectares of land, 46% of which was forest area and 27% had arecanut farms.
Mr. Ashisara said that notifying an area as biodiversity heritage site will help protect the rich and unique ecosystem in a particular area from further destruction. Now, the Forest Department will take necessary steps, such as a survey of the areas for earmarking the borders, and documentation, before issuing the notification of declaration.