Bannerghatta’s Many Woes

First published on June 07, 2024

By Bhavya Iyer

On paper, eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) around Protected Areas are recognised as vital for the protection of habitats, particularly wildlife corridors, while enabling coexistence of wildlife and local communities. However, the ground reality is quite different, as they are often acceptable collateral for infrastructure projects. Take the case of the Bannerghatta National Park (BNP), the ESZ of which has shrunk drastically over the years. Bannerghatta now faces a new threat – the Bengaluru Satellite Town Ring Road (STRR), a project that would splice this wilderness in two.

In 2016, the BNP’s ESZ extended to almost 4.5 km. from the park’s core, covering around 268.8 sq. km. In 2020, this was reduced to 168 sq. km. The areas removed from the Bannerghatta ESZ in 2020 included existing stone quarries, thus excluding them from the purview of the ESZ restrictions.

According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s 2011 guidelines for the declaration of eco-sensitive zones around Protected Areas (PAs), which has been upheld by a Supreme Court judgement dated April 26, 2023, ESZs are intended to act as ‘shock absorbers’ for PAs, creating a transition zone between wildlife habitat and unprotected areas, with certain activities that may harm the environment restricted and regulated. The same guidelines suggest a general principle that the width of ESZs can be up to 10 km. from the PA edge and even more, particularly for ecologically sensitive areas and corridors. However, in many areas, successive notifications have shrunk this to around one kilometre, with the ESZ extending to only 100 m. beyond the park boundaries in some cases.

Photo: Public Domain/Ashvin Kumar.

The six-lane elevated highway of the STRR has been proposed to reduce congestion in Bengaluru through a ‘ring’ road encircling the city and connecting seven satellite towns and villages on its outskirts. It will be built on what legally is supposed to be a 1.8 m.-wide footpath which has been widened to around 15 m. and black-topped without following due process.  Bannerghatta is home to over 100 elephants that would potentially be impacted by this project running through their home, and also two tigers.

The proposed road is to be elevated so as to allow animal movement below. However, activists question the need for a road to pass through the park, and have raised concerns that apart from the disturbances from road construction, the noise generated by the traffic on the road, despite ‘sound barriers’, would be a persistent problem.

“Humans can pack up and leave a noisy location, change jobs and schools, sell homes and move cities,” says Harini Nagendra, an ecologist at IISc Bengaluru and author of Nature in the City: Bengaluru in the Past, Present, and Future. “Animals are less fortunate. Imagine being a leopard or wild pig in a forest, suddenly confronted with a six-lane highway.”

The STRR is against the MoEFCCs own policy decision prohibiting new roads inside PAs. NHAI guidelines issued in 2019 clearly state that alignments through PAs must be avoided. The answer to Bengaluru’s congestion is to improve public transport rather than increasing roads, which will mainly be used by private vehicles. Chandrashekar Kalyanasundaram, a concerned citizen, visited the proposed site. He found that the forest here has already been bottlenecked in certain areas by various development projects and forest diversions. A Bengaluru-based NGO, the Bannerghatta Nature Conservation Trust has filed a PIL, WP 47 in the Karnataka High Court, challenging the final ESZ notification of 2020. The Court has admitted the PIL and the matter is sub judice, yet the destruction continues.

Disturbingly, the Karnataka Housing Board is also planning a 2,000-acre township on the outskirts of Bannerghatta. Where will the land, water, and other resources come from for such a township? Bengaluru is already struggling under the weight of a water crisis. Reducing tree cover by diverting land for construction of roads and bisecting the nearby forests will only further exacerbate these issues, as Bannerghatta is a watershed for several streams, which drain into the Cauvery river, one of Bengaluru’s primary water sources. Despite concerns raised by activists, environmentalists and citizens, the STRR has shockingly been cleared by the National Board for Wildlife.

What You Can Do
1. Write a polite letter to the Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Shri Bhupender Yadav
(, and the Minister of Road Transport and Highways Shri Nitin Gadkari (, asking them to scrap or realign roads through Bannerghatta.
2. Sign the petition to Save Bannerghatta and share it widely.
3. Write to the Karnataka HC and the SC in support of Writ Petition 47/2020 by the Bannerghatta Nature Conservation Trust, to save Bannerghatta.
4. Call or write to your local representatives stating the need to: 1. Realign the STRR; 2. Improve multi-modal transport in your area; 3. Improve coordination between different modes of transport  and companies – BMTC, Namma Metro, and trains – to enhance connectivity for citizens.
5. Read ‘16 things to get right with Bengaluru’s public transportation’ and assess public transport facilities in your area. Find what can be improved – bus stops, safety, trash, walkabillity, etc. – and write to the local municipal body with your suggestions.



join the conversation