Very few Bangaloreans are aware that M.G. Road was once the battleground between Tipu Sultan and the British in the 18th Century.
This once iconic road is unrecognisable now, thanks to Namma Metro. Its boulevard is gone as has the much-loved Plaza cinema, part of the city's film-going tradition since the 1930s. With the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) demolishing the building, nothing remains of the structure.
A Metro station will come up in its place.
It is not just M.G. Road that has had to bear the brunt. One of Bangalore's most famous landmarks, Lalbgah, too had to sacrifice its trees and land for the Metro. Not satisfied with this, Namma Metro now wants a slice of Cubbon Park too and the matter is in the High Court.
Greens, alarmed by the Metro's appetite, say when it was conceived more than three decades ago, they did not foresee the price the city's heritage would pay.
The first indication came a few years ago when the alignment was finalised. Many initially thought that the Metro would be underground and that there would be minimal over-ground activities. However, it was a different story when the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) commenced land acquisition.
However, one of BMRCL's most controversial decisions is the location of a station at Lalbagh. When historians, nature lovers, environmentalists and even some elected representatives protested, all that the authorities would say was that only a few eucalyptus trees were being cut.
Cubbon Park now will have to part with a small part of its land to the project. Metro not only wants land permanently but also the lawns of the Vidhana Soudha and part of Cubbon Park for an alternative road once the Ambedkar Veedhi is closed for traffic.
Several statues of national leaders in front of Vidhana Soudha will have to be shifted to make way for the temporary road. Minsk Square, with its memorial to the Unknown Soldier, too has gone thanks to the revised alignment.
What is more worrisome for historians and nature lovers is that the underground section will be close to several historic buildings such as High Court, KGID Building, Raj Bhavan, Vidhana Soudha and the General Post Office. What will be the structural impact on these buildings and will they be able to withstand the constant blasting and vibrations, they ask.
G.R. Mohan, an advocate who has filed a public interest litigation petition on these lines in the High Court, hopes that BMRCL would address all these issues before going ahead. BMRCL sources, however, say all these factors have been examined and all precautions taken to ensure that the underground section would not pose any danger to the structures on either side of the Ambedar Veedhi.
Keywords: Bangalore heritage