Filming in Hesarghatta grasslands raises concern

A senior official said permission was given by the State government’s single-window system

A horde of vehicles, construction of sets and an army of people descended on the Hesaraghatta grasslands on Monday raising concerns about damage to the eco-sensitive habitat, which had not seen film shootings for over six years.

The area was once popular for shooting films and was even slated to have a large film city when activists went to the Karnataka High Court. The court ruled that the land has to be handed back to the Animal Husbandry Department.

The department, in multiple meetings and letters since then, has said it would conserve the grasslands and allow only livestock-related activities. Filming had stopped since 2013.

However, the filming of Odeya, starring Darshan who is also the brand ambassador for the Forest Department, started on Monday and is scheduled to end on February 14. Incidentally, for the past two months, the area had been closed to the public. Even village shepherds, who have traditionally grazed on the land, were not allowed.

“Building sets or cooking for the crew destroys parts of the grasslands, apart from strewing of plastic everywhere. A large number of vehicles are making their way to the area, which has been out of bounds for the general public,” says Mahesh Bhat, an activist who wants the grasslands to be the declared a conservation reserve.

The grasslands, spread over 3,000 acres, are home to over 221 species of flora and fauna, and its marshy waters have been one of the few places left in the city where rare migratory bird species can be spotted. The Bombay Natural History Society had listed Hesaraghatta grasslands as one of the ‘potential’ Important Birding Areas in the country, considering the sighting of lesser floricans in the area.

“It is like film shooting in a forest and endangering a ecosystem. It sets a bad precedent and may lead to shooting of other films here,” said Mr. Bhat.

The producers of the film got permission from the Animal Husbandry Department to shoot on a payment of ₹20,000 per day as fees. There are nearly 16 conditions to be followed, including prohibition of high-noise activities, activity that damages the ecosystem and activities that could harm the bio-security of the area that houses livestock breeding centres.

A senior official in the department said that as permission was given by the State government’s single-window system set up for film shooting, there was little they could do. “We had banned movement of public in the grasslands to preserve it. Filming can have local consequences, and we have posted personnel to ensure no illegal activity is done,” said the official.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 7:20:03 AM |

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