Who will bat for these creatures?

Photo by Dibyendu Ash
Photo by Dibyendu Ash

By Shravan Regret Iyer

Bengaluru: With the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) leasing Sankey Tank for commercial activities, most people have failed to notice that the existence of a protected flying fox colony is under threat.

Environmental activist concerned about these flying mammals have approached the BBMP commissioner to ban all commercial activities in the bat’s vicinity.

The flying fox is the largest bat found in India and surprisingly, these bats have been the residents of the garden city for a long time. But die to rapid urbanization and unplanned development growth, the city has lost most of its flying fox colonies. Experts claim that the numbers have gone down from 72 colonies to mere four colonies in the city.

Currently, flying fox colonies are seen in placed like Sankey Tank, Basavanagudi, IISc campus and HAL. These flying foxes are seen on tall trees and they root in large numbers. A single roosting site can have thousands of these nocturnal creatures who are said to be most active after sunset.

The BBMP forest cell estimates that there are about 15, 000 flying foxes roosting in the Sankey Tank premises. But here, too, commercialization is taking its toll.

Photo by Danish Sualeh
Photo by Danish Sualeh

“An event is organized in the Sankey Tank premises and they will be using generators and floodlights. If such activities continue till late night, they will have an adverse impact on the creatures. It’s a serious issue. The BBMP has to stop this,” says an animal activist. According to a few wildlife experts, these bats get active after 6pm and go in search of food over a radius of 20 to 30 kilometres. Good pollinators and seed disposers, they are often referred to as farmers of the city.

“Since the commercial activities involve halogen floodlights, which are very bright, the movement of these creatures is threatened. They also get disturbed from drinking water from the tank. If such events continue to occur regularly, they will pose a threat to the existence of these flying mammals and might lead the away from their habitat,” said an expert.

“We sent many letters to the BBMP commissioner asking him to stop leasing lakes for commercial activities. Since there was no reply from him, we decided to approach him and hand him a memorandum,” said an activist.

Last month a few activists had lodged a police complaint against a private company for organizing an event in Sankey Tank. The event triggered about the long-term impact of such commercial activities in the vicinity of Sankey Tank. These commercial activities are in violation of guidelines set by the justice N K Patil Committee, which explicitly bar private commercial functions/events, whether for token or lease or any monetary considerations or otherwise, in lakes. Activists also claim that it’s a violation of Wet Lands Act 2010.

This story was originally published in Deccan Chronicle Oct 21, 2014, edition