Metro Phase II runs into tree line

Before even the plans can come to the ground, the “easier” sections of Phase II of the Namma Metro project seem to have hit a roadblock.

The meeting on Tuesday to seek public objections on the axing of 313 trees on Kanakapura Road and Mysuru Road – to make way for extensions of the metro line to Anjanapura Township and Kengeri respectively – turned heated as residents and environment activists took on Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited’s (BMRCL) “failed” assurances in the yet-to-be-completed Phase I of the project.

While the meeting was expected to “deliver a verdict” on Metro’s request to cut down trees; considering the overwhelming objection received, as well as lack of information on the project, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) deferred the public consultation until the metro could come up with “sufficient” information and response to the objections.

GIS mapping

“Why can’t you use GIS mapping of trees, explain the species of trees to be cut, and the alignment of metro. You claim this is the optimum route, but the public doesn’t even know which tree is going on these major roads,” said Anjanapura resident A. Bhanu, Chief Technical Officer of the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, at the meeting.

Similarly, others who raised their voice against the project, pointed to 50-year-old trees being chopped during Phase I only to be replaced by “ornamental” plants such as bougainvillea.

While the BBMP Forest Cell – whose tree officers have the authority to grant approval for felling of trees for projects after a public consultation process – have received more than 230 objections through email so far; the meeting on Tuesday saw a petition – signed by more than 100 people – against the project.

Leo Saldanha from the Environment Support Group, who drafted the petition, said the manner of conducting the consultations ran in contrary to the orders of the Karnataka High Court passed during the construction of the Metro Phase I. The BMRCL was directed to make changes in the land use depicted in the Masterplan – something that is being violated even now, said Mr. Saldanha.

Approval adds to delay for Metro

BBMP officials believe the long list of objections that need to be answered will take “some time”, as GIS mapping and identification of tree species is laborious. For beleaguered officials of the Metro, struggling to convince a combative audience, they stressed on the “losses” due to delays caused due to approvals such as this.

“Withholding the approval for cutting trees adds to the delays due to other technical and acquisition issues. We have estimated that the cost inflates by nearly Rs. 2,500 crore for every year that the project is delayed,” said an officer. The two stretches are expected to be complete by 2019.

The reasoning, however, was not accepted by the activists who blamed Metro’s competency for the delays.

‘Why not hold it in Tumakuru?’

The matter of trees being felled in Kanakapura road and Mysuru Road was being decided at an air-conditioned hall in Malleswaram, some 15 km away.

The absurdity of this was not lost on those present for the public consultation. “Why don’t you hold it in Tumakuru next? Residents have travelled all the way from Anjanapura that is nearly 25 km away. Surely, they can travel a few more km,” said Leo Saldanha from the Environment Support Group.

Kumar Pushkar, Special Commissioner (Finance), BBMP, agreed with the residents and promised to have the next meeting closer to the affected areas.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 1:11:16 AM |

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