In a small victory for the environment and concerned citizens fighting to preserve the greenery around them, the Karnataka High Court has restricted Karnataka Road Development Corporation (KRDCL) from axing trees for the widening roads on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
The KRDCL had initially proposed to cut some 8,500 trees in for the widening of the roads in Anekal, Nelamangala, Harohalli, KR Puram and Sarjapur. However, after the proposal invited widespread criticism KRDCL had revised the figures to 5,300 trees.
On Tuesday, the Karnataka HC which was hearing a PIL against the tree cuttings noted that there was no specific method used to identify which trees can be saved before granting permissions to fell trees.
The Court also directed the expert committee constituted by the GKVK University to reconsider and examine if any tree can be saved while constructing these roads as per the finalised alignment.
According to the Environmental Impact Assessment which was submitted in June the project would lead to irreversible environmental damage, with four impacts in particular:
Health hazards from pollution: Road widening will increase traffic and decrease tree cover, putting people at higher risk of PM10, PM2.5 and NOx from vehicular emissions.
Urban heat island effect: Trees can reduce ambient air temperature on roads by as much as 5.6 degree C. Hence the loss of tree cover will contribute to rising temperatures. Loss of heritage trees and urban biodiversity: Endangered species such as the slender loris may lose their habitat due to fragmentation of the city’s forests.
Impact on lakes and groundwater recharge: There needs to be a 30 m buffer zone around lakes according to Supreme Court orders. The survey says buffer zones would be encroached for road widening. Trees, especially in such buffer zones, help increase water retention.
While the HC order is a welcome step, this is just one of the several fights environmentalists and citizens of the Garden City are involved in, to protect the environment.
Another major battle they are fighting is against the proposal to axe some 33,000 trees for the Peripheral Ring Road. The draft Environmental Impact Assessment for the Peripheral Ring Road connecting Tumakuru Road and Hosur Road in Bengaluru showed that 33,838 trees will have to face the axe for the project.
The 8-lane road of 65.5 km length will complete the remaining half of the Nice Road with 10.50-metre wide service roads. The project is estimated to cost Rs 15,111.42 crore.