Lifestyle Environment 30 Sep 2016 Projects at the cost ...

Projects at the cost of our trees? No!

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | CHANDRASHEKAR G
Published Sep 30, 2016, 4:19 am IST
Updated Sep 30, 2016, 4:19 am IST
Do we really need a Steel Bridge between Chalukya Circle and Hebbal which will get rid of the greenery on the stretch in one go?
Bengaluru is already seeing a rise in temperature and a disruption in its rainfall pattern as a result of the trees it has lost over the years.
 Bengaluru is already seeing a rise in temperature and a disruption in its rainfall pattern as a result of the trees it has lost over the years.

Chopping trees seems to have become a habit with the city’s civic agencies with indiscriminate axing of fully grown trees in the name of infrastructure projects creating an ugly imbalance in nature. Road widening and flyover projects are proposed and implemented at will but no one cares to check if they really serve the intended purpose or the amount of damage they can do to the green cover. And do we really need a Steel Bridge between Chalukya Circle and Hebbal which will get rid of the greenery on the stretch in one go?

The project is itself mired in controversy with many seeing the steel bridge planned between Chalukya Circle and Hebbal as quite unnecessary as they believe it will not really make commuting any easier than it is today  to the international airport. But despite the opposition, the government is not only going ahead with it, but is also preparing to cut 812 fully grown trees to make way for it over a distance of 6.7 kms. The cost purely in  terms of money is a whopping Rs 1,791 crore and in terms of damage to the environment it could be a lot more.
Add to that is the widening of the Jayamahal Road, which will see another 800 trees bite the dust and the TenderSure project in north Bengaluru, that could see more trees fall. In all, the city could lose over 1,600 trees in these areas alone over the coming months.

 

Bengaluru

Threatening to knock on the doors of the National Green Tribunal to stop these projects, which have no respect for the environment, Mr Vinay Srinivasa, member of Hasiru Usiru, deplores that the  civic agencies have been resorting to indiscriminate axing of fully grown trees in the name of infrastructure building , giving no thought to the ecology.

Noting that Bengaluru is already seeing a rise in temperature and a disruption in its rainfall pattern as a result of the trees it has lost over the years, he regrets that the government is not willing to call a halt to the  massacre of its greenery even now. “Protecting the ecology is last on the agenda  of the civic agencies and the  state government. Planting trees across the city has become an annual ritual on World Environment Day and nothing more. Unless the environment is given its due in terms of green cover disaster is waiting to happen,” he warns.

 

Accusing the BBMP of failing to maintain transparency and taking up mega projects unilaterally without consulting either the public or environmental experts, Mr Srinivas points out that permission has been granted for felling of nearly 20 trees on the 11th main road in Jayanagar and for another eight trees on Nrupathunga road without so much as a mention to the people of these localities. “It was only after the Forum for Urban Governance and Commons, the Green Bengaluru Campaign, and Hasiru Usiru objected that the number of trees to be felled on Nrupathunga road were brought down to just four,” he adds.

 

Pointing out that holding public consultation is a must whenever major projects are taken up in the city , the concerned activist says their execution in the absence of this procedure  amounts to violation of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act and his organisation intends to point this out to the National Green Tribunal. “Suitable documents are being put together,” he informs, clearly unwilling to let the BBMP, BDA and the government have a free run in destroying what is left of the city’s green cover. Green activists would rather the government opted for mass rapid transportation and intelligent transport like more buses, Metro Rail, Mono Rail or even a commuter train, to decongest the city and give road widening and building more flyovers a miss in the interest of protecting its ecology.

 

‘Cutting trees in north Bengaluru will only aggravate pollution’
“Planting  saplings in areas other than where the trees have been axed is like treating the hand for a leg injury. It does not serve any purpose,” protest green activists associated with the Forum for Urban Governance and Commons, Green Bengaluru Campaign, and Hasiru Usiru, referring to the often proclaimed defence of civic agencies when cutting down trees for a project.

Former bureaucrat turned environmentalist, A. N. Yellappa Reddy too says that while the BBMP and BDA claim to plant trees to compensate for the lost green cover, this in no way helps the area that has lost them in the first place to make way for a flyover or road widening.

 

“As North Bengaluru provides major connectivity to the Kempegowda International Airport, the area is already stressed in terms of pollution and cutting down more trees will only aggravate the situation,” he warns, suggesting that technology be utilised instead for damage control and the loss of tree cover minimised wherever possible when carrying out new projects.

“Technology is available for column tree planting using climbers and creepers. Also, some of the trees which are at the periphery of a project  can be retained by conducting a little surgery. Some 30 per cent of the canopy can be cut and the tree still retained. As any imbalance will lead to uprooting of the tree, surgery must be done to its roots as well,” he advises

 

While all this could be a little expensive to do, he says a city like Bengaluru which is already feeling the effects of global warning, has little choice if it has to retain its green cover and protect its environment from further damage. “It's not enough to merely plant trees in areas other than where they have been axed for a project. The locality that has suffered the loss must also be compensated with green cover. And trees must be planted in newly added areas irrespective of whether they are cut or not in  core Bengaluru,” he sums up.

 

Implement simple solutions well rather than opt for grand costly ideas: V. Ravichandar, Civic Evangelist
Have given my reservations already about the proposed steel bridge. So what is the solution?. First we need a mindset change in our government. It needs to display care and sensitivity for pedestrians, believe that without smart public transport  no mobility solution is feasible, must want to preserve greenery and triple open public spaces and implement simple solutions well rather than  opt for grand costly ideas that don't address the core problem.

 

Can we have a vision of 1500 kms of walkable footpaths that are 1.5 to 2 meters wide? Can we do the Rs 600 crore white topping project by fixing the footpath first? A civilised society plans for vulnerable folks and these on our streets are the pedestrians. There is no way a car-centric approach can ever fix Bengaluru traffic as we have road deficit infrastructure. Government must believe and demonstrate its faith in public transport. Long flyovers and tunnel road proposals indicate a car mindset and they will never work.

Our public space at 5.8% is pathetically low. It needs to be more than 15%. There should be legislation against shrinking any public space going forward. There should be no question of eating into the Bangalore Golf Club, turf club, or palace grounds. And cutting over 800 trees saying more will be planted elsewhere is hardly a visionary outlook. My specific suggestions for the Hebbal - Chalukya stretch for the short term are increase the lane on the Hebbal flyover; have palace ground access only through Jayamahal road- side; and get BMTC airport buses to run as directional buses more often to Cubbon Road, KR Puram and Tumakuru Road.

 

No hesitation in referring to this project as purely contractor and politically driven: Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha member
I have no hesitation in referring to this project as purely contractor and politically driven as it is neither citizen nor plan-driven. It is a blatant misuse of public money and illegal, as it has not been placed before the constitutionally set-up Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Committee and  no public consultation was held prior to preparing the detailed project report. No impact study was done and placed in public domain for scrutiny and transparency.

 

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Location: India, Karnataka, Bengaluru




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