The construction of the Bangalore International Airport (BIA) was indeed a great development for the State and Country. This is a piece I wrote long back on its impact on the Devanahalli pomelo, a rare fruit indegenous to the area. This was a case study, and some of the data was collected on site, through interactions with the concerned persons.
The Devanahalli Pomelo is locally known as the Chakkota and thrives in the Devanahalli area, which untill recently comprised primarily of farmland. The soil at Devanahalli is ideal for the cultivation of this variety of pomelo, in fact, so ideal that, it is difficult to cultivate this variety anywhere else. The soil texture is neither completely moist nor completely dry, is well aired and rich in nutrients. The chakkota’s outer rind is thick and light yellow in color and its flesh is pinkish and mildly juicy.
Bengaluru international Airport is the newly constructed4050 acreinternational airport, located in devanahalli,Bangalore. It has replaced HAL airport as the airport of the city ofBangalore. Its construction began in July, 2005 and was inaugurated onMay 23, 2008.
The airport has been designed to accommodate 12 million passengers and its facilities are state of the art.
However, acquisition of land in devanahalli for construction of this project has caused many Chakkota farmers to cease cultivation of the fruit. The Devanahalli pomelo is a very sensitive species which can only be grown in and around Devanahalli as aforementioned due to the unique quality of the soil there. Not only have farmlands been acquired and industrialized, but also, the airport construction has cut off a significant portion of sunlight and wind from the area, leading to climatic change which has adversely affected the fruit.
Real estate prices have surged since construction of the airport and farmers find more incentive to sell their land than to continue cultivating the rare fruit, as it is not a cash crop.
The devanahalli pomelo is threatened severely in and around Bangaloredue to the construction of the Bengaluru International airport in devanahalli which is leading to a soar in land prices. High property prices are causing farmers to sell their agricultural land which is then used for industrial purposes. This has a major adverse impact on cultivation of the pomelo fruit in the devanahalli region especially.
The devanahalli Chakkota is indigenous to the area and is also grown in the adjacent villages. The shallow and somewhat excessively drained, gravelly loam to clay soil found in region around Devanahalli provides a conducive atmosphere for the tree, and the area receives an annual rainfall in the range between330 mmand807 mm.
Reduction in production of the fruit is not only due to sale of agricultural lands but also due to altering climatic conditions.
K Ramakrishnappa, director of the State horticulture department says the fruit is heading towards extinction because farmers are losing interest in the crop. Dearth of proper cultivation methods and unpredictable and changing climate patterns also has adverse affects on production of the fruit.
According to records, the unique devanahalli chakkota was cultivated in only around 13 villages in the devanahalli taluk, namely; Raghunathapura, Shivanapura, Neelaganapalya, Vishwanathapura, Beerasandra, melinathotadahalli, neelaguntepalya and others. It is also sparingly seen in eight villages in Siddlaghatta taluk, seven villages in Doddaballapur taluk and one village in Chickballapur taluk. Due to limited cultivation however, this number has drastically reduced.
K.P. Devraj of Singelli village in Devanahalli taluk said that the trees were quickly disappearing from the area due to of large-scale development.
“Though chakkota provides supplementary income to the farmers, it occupies an important role as an income generator. Each tree has the capacity to bear around 300 fruits in a year, and the fruit has a good demand in the city,” he said.
Per acre of land, an average estimate is that there are around 60 to 70 trees, each yielding around 100 fruits. The number of farmers estimated to be cultivating the fruit is less than 100. The fruits weigh between 2 and 2.5 kgeach.
The horticultural department is in the process of conserving the germ plasm of the fruit to preserve its uniqueness. The department’s biocenter at Hulimavu is collecting plants and these are being proliferated to farmers. M. Vishwanath, assistant Director of Horticulture Department’s Biotechnology Centre at Hulimavu, told The Hindu: “We are trying to revive the crop by introducing new plants in the area where genuine quality planting material will be supplied. Grafted plants from the existing healthy tree are also being tried.”
On the estimated land under chakkota cultivation, Mr. Vishwanath said that the department was analyzing the area to get precise statistics.
“At several places, we are finding farmers owning one or two chakkota trees, and the total area may not be large,” he added
Department workers are also looking into grafted varieties of the plant. The unique nature of devanahalli soil disallows the fruit from being taken to other locations in the state for cultivation
Adverse impact of airport construction on the environment as a whole
Real estate prices in the Yelahanka-Devanahalli area have been rapidly increasing in recent times. The area has been home to mainly farms and vineyards for years, until about a decade ago, when it began to undergo urbanization. The 1200 crore airport project has caused real estate in the area to soar.
The current rate per square foot of land in the area is Rs.400. Atypical 40ft by60 ftplot in the Devanahalli region would be around 10 lakh rupees. Due to the construction of the airport, many apartment complexes and mini-townships are being developed in the region and areas leading up to it such as Marathahalli and Whitefield. There is also a proposed electronics andHardwareParkand two apparel industry parks to be constructed to support the Yelahanka-Devanahalli belt. To make the new airport accessible, a six lane highway has been constructed, clearing large areas of vegetation in the process.
The primary unfavorable effect of the airport’s construction as with any construction is the land it occupies which had previously housed a vast array of biodiversity. The existence of the airport itself, which is a much larger structure than the old airport, takes away a large portion on the habitats of many species of organisms. The devanahalli pomelo is only one of many species harmed by the airport. It is however more severely affected than other species due to the specific nature of devanahalli soil which is so conducive and vital for its growth.
The conservation of the pomelo is imperative, as is the conservation of all species of flora and fauna. Its continued existence is vital for biodiversity and as an endemic species; it is valuable as its conservation can be very cost effective.