The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has axed over 50 grown trees on Ballari Road to widen the existing road from Cauvery Theatre junction to Mekhri Circle.
The axed trees were located in front of gate numbers 9 to 4 of Palace Grounds, a well-known place for holding political rallies, exhibitions, marriages, and other functions. With the axing of trees, Bengaluru has lost one more road that was covered with a canopy of trees.
The Deputy Commissioner of Forests of BBMP recently granted permission for axing trees following a request by the executive engineer of road infrastructure development (East zone), to widen the busy road that connects CBD areas with the northern part of the city.
In 2016, hundreds of people representing residents’ welfare associations, NGOs, and others staged massive protests, opposing the steel flyover project between Chalukya Circle and the Hebbal flyover, which required felling of over 800 trees located on a 7-km stretch. Following stiff resistance, the project was later shelved in 2017.
Recently, citing traffic congestion in the area, the BBMP proposed to widen certain stretches of the road and build grade separators at Chalukya Circle, Windsor Manor junction, Cauvery Theatre junction, and Mekhri Circle.
It is said that in the first phase, the BBMP wants to widen the road for a distance of 600 metres by removing more than 50 trees coming on the way. While seeking permission to remove trees, the BBMP engineers identified 58 trees for removal. While giving permission, the DCF of BBMP allowed the removal of 54 trees.
To the public notice issued for removal of trees, the forest cell of the BBMP had received 50 objections and suggestions raising concern over loss of green cover and impact on the water bodies located inside the Palace Grounds.
People had also objected to the widening of 600 metres as a short-term solution and argued that it would not help in easing traffic in the long run. Suggestions were made to improve the public transport system to decongest roads and save trees.
Some have also alleged that the road widening project is a ploy to facilitate construction of a flyover project between Hebbal and Chalukya Circle in the future.
In its reply, the BBMP had maintained that earlier, there were proposals to widen the road from BDA Circle to Mekhri Circle and stretch of Jayamahal Road (from Mekhri Circle to Cantonment Station) by acquiring land in Palace Grounds.
But it was not feasible “on account of certain factors.” Later, the project was redesigned to widen the road by restricting the currently available road width. The BBMP had maintained that earlier there were proposals to remove 172 trees for widening the road.
An official from the Road and Infrastructure Department, BBMP, said: “We have got a permission from the Forest Department of BBMP and the tree cutting is done to add two additional lanes to the stretch between Cauvery Theatre junction and Mekhri Circle which is known for traffic snarls”.
Officials said that to compensate for the tree cutting, the civic body will plant 10 saplings and maintain it for three years.
But citizens are not convinced. Murali Krishna, who travels daily in city buses from Yelahanka to Majestic, said: “Years ago, well-grown trees were removed by the BBMP for widening Seshadri Road, Nrupathunga Road, and other roads. But now we can see traffic congestion on these roads. Widening of the road is a temporary relief. The government should encourage the public transport system to reduce the congestion instead of cutting green cover”.
Anjan Gowda, a motorist, said: “The Ballari Road is notorious for traffic congestion during the peak hours. Whenever there are functions or rallies inside the Palace Grounds traffic, the condition worsens as hundreds of people use private vehicles to get inside the ground. Widening a stretch of road will not serve any purpose. This only shifts traffic from Mekhri Circle to Windsor Manor Bridge”.