Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa's decision to convert the heritage Roerich and Devika Rani estate at Tataguni near Kanakpura into a film city has drawn severe criticism from environmentalists and artists.
Multiple groups have opposed the CM's decision to develop a film city at the estate and are willing to file Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Karnataka High Court over the move. They claim that the estate should be preserved for its heritage and cultural value, as it houses several plants and animal species, including Bursera delpechiana, which is used for making linaloe essential oil.
The activists claim that there are many other spaces in the state to create a film city rather than Roerich estate, which is one of the last lung spaces of the city and also an elephant corridor, which is part of the Ragihalli forest in Bannerghatta National Park limits and Turahalli forest.
The 468-acre estate belonged to the celebrated artist couple Svetoslav Roerich and Devika Rani until 9 March 1994 after she passed away, while Roerich died on 30 January 1993. The estate has been under the control of the state government since 1996 as the couple were heirless. There is a colonial-style home inside the estate where the first lady of Indian cinema and grandniece of Rabindranath Tagore Devika Rani and her husband and eminent Russian artist Roerich lived till their end.
Environmentalist and Ornithologist Dr MB Krishna told International Business Times, India that, Roerich was given special permission by the government to own the estate, which is a part of the forest range during Indira Gandhi's time as he was an iconic Russian representative.
He said that even the linoleum trees are now in ruins as not many trees can be seen as before due to the poor conservation of them. "Commercialisation and urbanisation are going to destroy the green network of Bengaluru and rather than preserving it government policies are destroying it," he said.
The couple had planted linoleum inside the estate to extract essential oils during the late '60s and also had imported machinery from Germany for the process. After the couple's death, several artefacts and valuables have been reported to be missing from the house.
Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board were set up by the Karnataka government under the revenue department to protect the estate and all its contents but no major plans have been made to preserve its heritage value.
In 2015, the government had spent Rs 2 crore for its restoration and had approved for setting up an art museum with an exhibition hall, auditorium, studios and accommodation for artists. Another residence of Roerich at Kullu in Himachal Pradesh was developed into an arts hub while the estate in Bengaluru has been neglected.
While the estate is one of the few areas in the city with dense vegetation and habitat for wild animals, the chief minister's move will be a really bad idea, which will result in more urbanisation by destroying the forests and expanding the concrete jungle.