Unplanned urbanization is a risk to wildlife, say experts


Human-animal  interaction has risen over years

Bengaluru city has been witnessing an increasing number of wildlife sightings. Experts believe the shrinking wildlife habitat and animal corridors are the primary reasons for these as also human-wildlife conflicts.

Joseph Hoover, a former member of the Karnataka State Wildlife Board, explained why elephants, leopards and other wild animals are being spotted around the city. “Elephants are bound to stray into the city as elephant corridors are being encroached upon by people. Because of that, the elephants tend to come into these rural and urban areas for habitat and food. The government should ensure these corridors are restored. These are age-old corridors; humans came later.”

In January, an elephant was spotted in Kengeri. The incident caught the attention of wildlife experts. The area was once an elephant corridor. 

Most development projects the government undertakes, such as the building of linear infrastructure projects, is destroying these wildlife habitats. “It is not Karnataka’s problem; it is also happening in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It is entire South India’s problem. Today it is an elephant, tomorrow it will be a leopard, then it will be a tiger,” Hoover said.

A report in The New Indian Express, quoting documents of the Karnataka Forest Department, said more than 2,100 acres of the Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) have been encroached and over 700 cases registered in connection with them.

Wild animals other than elephants are facing the consequences of unplanned urbanization.

Nawaz Sharif, general manager of People for Animals, a wildlife refuge in Bengaluru, said: “We find so many snakes with spine fractures and other injuries because of the mindless and unplanned JCB construction around the city. We also get complaints that snakes are getting spotted in apartments. It is not the snake that has strayed into the apartment; the apartments have been built on their habitat.”

Owing to the rapid urbanization and an increasing population, human-animal conflicts have increased. An article in Deccan Herald said Bengaluru’s area increased by 92.1 per cent and population by 37.8% during 1991-01. The spatial expansion of the urbanized area increased from 226 sqkm in 1995 to 710 sqkm in 2001.

“We are limiting these animals’ habitat and food sources with the rapid expansion of the city. To avoid that, it is necessary Bangalore gets a proper urbanization plan,” Sharif added.

Despite the expansion, effective planning of the city remains an important question.. 

Beruj Kumar Swastik, a civil engineer and urban planner at Urban Landscape Design Studio, informed The Observer: “Bangalore is expanding every month…. The outskirts of the city, earlier referred to as suburbs, are now fully urbanized. Not only this, if there are apartments on the outskirts, there will also be Metro connectivity and stores, restaurants, etc. These things cannot be planned out so fast.”

Experts believe industrialization and urbanization should be kept in check in order to preserve the ecosystem.

Dr A.N. Yellappa Reddy, an environmentalist, commented: “There is no way out of this. An increasing number of people need more space, so they need to expand the city. But unplanned urbanization will affect the balance that we are supposed to have. Man-animal conflict is bound to happen, but if we keep shrinking the forest areas, it would also contribute to climate change and other problems.”

Recently, Deccan Herald reported that according to experts, the Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway, which is set to be open to the public in a year, will pose a threat to wildlife in two forests situated between Bengaluru and Ramanagara, besides wildlife near Srirangapatna. This risk was highlighted when a young male leopard was found dead near the project area in April.



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