Over a year after work began under the ambitious TenderSURE project in Bengaluru, the project continues to draw ire from sections in the city. About 30 activists and residents gathered at the Nrupathunga Road, where the BBMP is mandated to cut down 18 trees to widen the footpaths under the project.
“This happened in Jayanagar also. There, they have already cut 21 trees. We don’t want them to do the same here, and in the name of doing it for the people when it is clearly being done to serve commercial interests,” said Reshma, a member of Forum for Urban Governance and Commons (FUGC), who was present at the protest.
She says that on Wednesday, the 18 trees were auctioned to private buyers for timber. Kshitij Urs, a professor of public policy at NLS said that this was clearly a project to fulfil commercial interests. “One cubic feet of timber sells at roughly 3000 rupees. Of course this is being done for commercial reasons,” he alleges.
Kshitij also said that in order to lay utility ducts like storm water drains and cables underground, the trees are being chopped off. “And it’s being done in a way that there will be no room for future trees as well. Further, when the footpaths are reinforced with concrete and overlaid with cobblestones, it will leave no space for the water to percolate down either,” he says.
Both Reshma and Kshitij point out that far from adopting practices which will mitigate effects of climate change and global warming, the cutting down of trees is going to gravely disturb the urban ecology. “Besides, what is the point of having wide footpaths when there is no shade to walk in?” Reshma questions.
The FUGC along with the Green Bengaluru Campaign and Hasiru Usiru submitted a document with their concerns to the mayor of the city. They have demanded that the felling of trees be halted immediately and those officers involved in the felling be punished and that citizen groups be consulted to come up with a footpath and road design that caters to “real needs” of the pedestrians.
(All photos by Subir Ghosh)