With close to 300 species recorded, the Hesaraghatta wetlands north of Bengaluru is one of the important wintering sites for tends of thousands of migratory birds that winter every year. In addition, its open grassland, marshes and the waterbody needs to be protected from various corporate interests which invariably have an eye on such open lands and acquire it for “development”. Invariably, such “development” neglects many local communities who get walled out of such commons as the land gets privatised. Often, the step to getting it privatised is to first declare it as “wasteland” etc.
The Karnataka Forest Department has put up a proposal to declare it as a conservation reserve. This is an important first step at securing the land and granting it State protection…even if the FD might eventually have a poor track record in preserving the “commons” character of the land…that is someting one will have to keep on working with them on. However, the choice is between an exclusionary State entity and private land sharks and the former is always the best choice, given at least the accountability framework that State entities fall under.
Now the responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the Karnataka State Wildlife Board, a statutory authority headed by the Chief Minister of Karnataka with members from multiple departments including the Forest, Policy, Social Welfare and Animal Health departments, and also including scientists from Zoological Survey of India, Wildlife Institute of India (Dehradun) and Botanical Survey of India and non-governmental members.
Sadly, the board is missing individuals with proven track-record of conservation on-ground or one of the several wonderful ecologists that are from Karnataka and have worked extensively across multiple protected areas. Nonetheless, the existing board has a big responsiblity of ensuring that they stand up against commercial interests and secure the future of the birdlife and wildlife that depends on Hesaraghatta for our future generations; for aesthetic interest, for ecological interests and of course as a small contribution in our efforts against climate change. Fingers crossed.