Staff Reporter

Decision to cut trees in and around Lalbagh, R.V. Road challenged

‘BMRCL had not obtained permission of Tree Officer before cutting trees’

Metro project is non-polluting and is in public interest: Advocate-General

BANGALORE: The Karnataka High Court on Saturday refused to pass any interim order on public interest litigation (PIL) petitions by environmental groups that had challenged the decision of the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) to cut trees in and around Lalbagh, R.V. Road, K.R. Road and Lakshman Rao boulevard in the city.

A Division Bench comprising Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice Ravi B. Malimath heard petitions by Environmental Support Group (ESG), Leo Saldanha, and Hasuru Usiru against the felling of trees for the Metro project.

The petitioners said the State had not seriously examined the feasibility of taking the Metro underground in stretches which had a large number of trees. They said acquisition of buildings and felling trees could be minimised if the Metro went underground.

They said the BMRCL had not obtained permission of the Tree Officer before felling trees. Moreover, the Ordinance promulgated by the State Government to take over part of Lalbagh and Cubbon Park had lapsed.

They said there was a need to strengthen the public transport system, but this should not be at the cost of the environment.

Rebutting all these allegations, Advocate-General Uday Holla, appearing for the State and BMRCL, said trees could be replanted but fossil fuels could not be renewed. He said once the Metro became operational, it would take away eight lakh vehicles from Bangalore roads.

Metro, he said, was totally non-polluting and it was in public interest. He said BMRCL had already planted 15,000 saplings and would plant more in the coming days.

The court then sought to know why BMRCL and the State had not framed any rehabilitation scheme for persons, particularly petty shopkeepers and small businessmen, affected by the project.

It said when the BMRCL Managing Director had attended a Lok Adalat, he had refused to agree to come up with a rehabilitation scheme for those displaced or affected by the project. The Advocate-General said he would ensure that a comprehensive scheme was prepared.

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike said the Tree Officer had been deputed by the Forest Department and that he would take a final decision on the total number of trees to be felled.

It said the Tree Officer would tag in different colours trees to be felled, pruned and saved.

The Bench, while rejecting the interim prayer for halting tree-felling, reserved orders on the petitions.