Environmentalists in Belagavi have drawn up a plan to a take up a series of activities to protect and conserve Vaccine Depot, a lung space in the city.
This follows the High Court of Karnataka granting a stay order on tree cutting and other works that may damage ecological balance in the urban jungle.
“We are relieved,’’ said Rajkumar Topannanvar, one of those who went to court against these works. The judgment was delivered on Monday last, in a public interest litigation petition filed by Save Vaccine Depot, an association of citizens of Belagavi.
Members of NGOs and citizen initiatives now plan to take up awareness creation activities, documentation, afforestation and activities such as nature walks and bird and butterfly watching to create awareness among children about the need to protect nature.
Such activities have been in the pipeline for long. But they have been delayed due to the lockdown and other reasons, including the State government sanctioning some works in the urban jungle.
Some morning walkers and concerned citizens objected to these works. Several petitions were submitted to Belagavi Smart City Limited, the city corporation, the district administration and the State government.
It was pointed out that the Smart City officers conducted a survey of over one lakh residents of the city, before drawing up a comprehensive development plan. Based on the replies received, the Vaccine Depot and the Belagavi Fort were to be designated as heritage precincts. Respondents said that the 156-acre green space in the Vaccine Depot be reserved as it is.
Belagavi Smart City Limited planned and started large-scale deforestation and began works such as laying of concrete roads, paved footpaths and museums and construction of a large amphitheatre inside the Vaccine Depot. The residents complained against this.
“But all this was to no avail. Our pleas fell on deaf ears. We had to finally approach court,’’ said Mr Topannanavar. As many as 11 persons from the city filed the public interest litigation petition that complained about tree felling and other unsustainable activities in the green zone.
“The petitioners faced threats from some powerful persons. But we went ahead. The court order has emboldened us. We know that people’s voice cannot be suppressed for long. All the projects taken up by Smart City inside the Vaccine Depot are a waste, to say the least. Officers and some politicians who are behind them have not adopted the sustainable development model,” he said.
Apart from thousands of varieties of trees, the Vaccine Depot is home to the Grey Hornbill, the American Robin, the Kingfisher, Starlings, peacocks and other birds. “We cannot afford to lose such rich heritage,” the petitioners pleaded.
Chief Justice A.S. Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj have given an ad-interim relief with direction that the present status of the Vaccine Depot shall not be altered. “Needless to add that as the present status has to be maintained, there shall not be any cutting of trees,’’ the order said.