Bengaluru: The sprawling 1,112-acres Bengaluru University campus situated in the heart of the city serves as a lung space, oxygen bank, and groundwater reserve.
The campus also boasts of developing the first ‘Bio, Geo and Hydro Park’ in the country. The mission of one man, retired Professor T.J. Renuka Prasad, designated special officer by the Government of Karnataka for Bio Park has turned this bushy, empty landscape into a mini forest.
“Biodiversity is the only way of life and when it needs to be implemented, there will be challenges, especially in the urban areas. However, through ensuring of public, wildlife enthusiasts’ participation, transformation is being brought,” said Professor Renuka Prasad. The forest cover is being brought with continuous efforts of more than two decades.
After the development of thick vegetation, life is thriving in the campus. Volunteers Dr Girish, Guruprasad along with E bird watchers have prepared a list of 162 and odd varieties of birds. “Campus is an abode to lakhs of birds,” Renuka Prasad explained.
Vivek Sarkar, an alumni presently working at WildLife Institute of India had recorded 150 and odd butterfly varieties. Bio Park includes flora and fauna in the form of butterflies, birds, peacocks, rabbits, snakes, mongoose,” he said.
The green cover in the campus also includes Miyawaki, Semi-Miyawaki forests for which plants and tree species have been brought from the Eastern Ghats regions such as Vijayawada, Vaizag, Rajahmundry.
It also has a Fruit Garden which has 168 varieties of 2,500 to 3,000 trees. Four Sahyadri Vana’s which have rare plant and tree species Western Ghats and Malnad region of Karnataka. Aroma Plant Garden, Appemidi vana (endangered mango species) and Charaka Vana (medicinal plants) are also part of green cover.
The rare plants and varieties have crossed 1,000 mark and there are six to seven lakh trees and plants in the campus. Charakavana has 300 to 400 varieties of medicinal plants. Aroma Plan Garden has rare plants such as “Deva Kanigale” used in temples but not cultivated, “Vishnu Kranthi” and Charaka Vana has rare species “Purusha Ratna”, which has high medicinal value.
The campus also boasts of about 10,000 sandal wood trees and a good number of Red Sander trees as well. “I have lodged more than 50 complaints with the police to protect Sandalwood trees which are being cut often,” Renuka Prasad explains.
Many research papers have been submitted by students of Environment Science, Botany, Geology on various subjects related to bio, geo and hydro aspects. Teaching faculty has submitted research 44 titles from various departments across science, arts, and commerce departments.
The campus offers two degree Celsius less temperature compared to the central business district of Bengaluru following construction of check dams and buffer zones at any point of time including summers.
Prof. Renuka Prasad, a former Geology Professor and Dean at Bengaluru University is retired but after seeing his efforts, the government issued an order to continue his services as the coordinator of Bio Park.
Now, the Bio Park has been made into a “Bio, Geo and Hydro Park”. He explains that all this has been done with one supervisor, six workers without causing financial strain on the university. Public and wild life enthusiasts’ participation has made it possible, Renuka Prasad said.
“After spreading the word, individuals and organisations have donated 100 trees to 1,000 trees. They also provided labour, pipelines, helped to install bore wells, and made facilities for drip irrigation. I sought liberty to choose land, plant trees, which University reciprocated,” he said.
The school children who visit ‘Bio, Geo and Hydro Park’ in the campus will know about evolution of earth, water cycle, rock formations, filling of water, usage of crustal rocks, derived soil and development of life. Seeds will be sowed in their hearts for preservation along with development.
The Central Government Water Board (CGWD), renowned environmentalist Dr A.N. Yallappa Reddy has played an important role in the mini forest taking shape.
When asked what Professor Renuka Prasad is getting for his efforts, he said that he recently had a miraculous recovery from a heart-related ailment. He believes that his tryst with nature is largely responsible for it.
Renuka Prasad has raised his voice against construction of buildings at cost of greenery in campus. He also gave a report of the university’s 200 plus acres being encroached upon, for which his retirement benefits are ‘promptly’ withheld till date.
But, his focus is elsewhere. Professor Prasad had given a proposal to enhance reserve forests up to 670 acres in the campus of the university. He had also submitted a report to create a buffer zone throughout Vrishabhavathi valley.
He is also demanding compulsory inclusion of certification courses for primary or high school children to get nature education through visits to bio, geo and hydro parks. It has been made compulsory in foreign countries.
“I am not against development. If vertical growth on big buildings is preferred, one more university can operate,” he said. The university was allotted such a big land to be developed on the model of Shantiniketan University. Academician, freedom fighter, rationalist and the VC of Bengaluru University H. Narasimhaiah had got 1,500 acres granted by the government. His dream should be fulfilled and one should remember that nature, education and knowledge go hand in hand,” he said.
By M.K. Ashoka