A total of 43 trees will make way for a new building as part of the smart upgrade plan of the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium. The Deputy Conservator of Forests, Bengaluru Urban, has issued a public notice about the project, which states that of the 190 trees that are there in the project area, 43 will have to be removed, of which 28 can be transplanted.
The ₹20-crore project announced in February 2020, which will be carried out by Bengaluru Smart City Ltd., will have a well-equipped auditorium and lecture halls over a total built-up area of 40,350 sq. ft.
Pramod G. Galgali, Director of the planetarium, told The Hindu that the project, which was brought to a standstill by the COVID-19 pandemic, is aimed at providing necessary infrastructure to the non-formal science education activities of the planetarium.
“We have been organising non-formal science education activities since two decades. The science lectures are becoming popular. But we did not have the necessary infrastructure, and hence requested the government. The new building will house a 600-seater auditorium and some classrooms as well,” he said.
The proposed building will also have a viewing deck for events/eclipses, restrooms and toilets, apart from a small café with seating and basement parking. “We will accommodate what we can inside. The experts will decide on the details,” he said.
Citizens are not entirely enthused. Sandeep Anirudhan, convener of Citizen’s Agenda of Bengaluru, a citizen’s movement, said, “Public consultation is mandated by EIA, but they have to give drawings, survey of the place and other details. How is the public going to make objections without all these?” He also said that there should not be any plans involving loss of green cover. “We've destroyed the city enough. Transplantation success rate is only 10%. They should be thinking of designing a project around the trees,” he said.
Since reopening mid-November, the planetarium, a popular landmark in the city and a big draw for science enthusiasts and children, has been running regular shows. “The number of visitors is much lower than before, but people are coming. Measures have been taken as per the SOPs, including temperature checks, sanitising, etc. The sky theatre is running at 60% capacity due to alternative seating. In the existing capacity, the weekends are full. On some weekends, we had to give additional shows,” Mr. Galgali said.