As part of the Telangana govt’s Strategic Road Development Plan, six junctions were to witness the construction of multi-layer flyovers.

Fate of Hyds green cover in Centres hands Where the plan for flyovers around KBR Park standsImage: Hyderabad Rising
news Environment Friday, September 22, 2017 - 17:17

Scores of Hyderabadis took to the streets holding placards and raising slogans in April last year, where they united to protect trees from being axed at the city's iconic Kasu Brahmananda Reddy (KBR) Park. 

Activists had challenged the Telangana government's Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP), which proposed to decongest traffic in certain areas of the city at the price of green cover. 

As part of the SRDP, six junctions were to be developed, and were to witness the construction of multi-layer flyovers, including KBR Park entrance, Jubilee Hills checkpost, Film Nagar junction, Jubilee Hills Road No. 45, Maharaja Agrasen junction (Banjara Hills Road No. 12) and Cancer Hospital junction (Banjara Hills Road No. 10).

Where does the project stand?

Many activists challenged the SRDP. Besides citizen group Hyderabad Rising, a letter written by journalist Kingshuk Nag was also converted into a public interest litigation and taken up by the High Court. Senior advocate K Pratap Reddy also moved court and environmentalist K Purushottam Reddy filed another case.

Shortly after the protests broke out, activists also approached the courts to get a stay order on the construction.While they managed to do so after a long battle at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the project hasn't been stalled yet. 

"The NGT has already passed its final judgement. It has clearly stated that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) must take a decision on the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of the park, as the state government has already changed it twice," says Suruchi Singh, one of the lawyers involved in the case. 

"Depending on what the MoEF decides, the construction may or may not happen. For example, if the Centre decides to set the ESZ at 25 to 27 metres, additional environmental clearances have to be taken by the state government," she adds.

In May this year, the state government planned to reduce the ESZ of the national park to 'zero metres', much to the anger of activists.

Arguing that the wall around KBR park was enough to protect the flora and fauna, it argued that the flyover was necessary to decongest traffic in the junction.

In July, the state proposed to revise it again, this time between three and 26 metres.

"As per my understanding, the only parks where zero-metre ESZs have been declared are where development has already happened to an extent around the park and there is no other choice. However, the same can't be said for KBR park, as there is a walkway and jogger's track as well," Suruchi says. 

"If construction starts before the ESZ is established, KBR park will become just another such example. It would also be a violation of the NGT order," she adds.

"Even where cutting trees is concerned, if the ESZ is not in favour of the state. The Water Land and Trees Act (WALTA) won't apply,as that is a state government act. They will need more clearances from the Centre," Suruchi points out.

"The state has submitted its proposal to the Centre, following which the Ministry has to make the report public for 60 days, to give space for objections. Only then, things can proceed forward," Suruchi says when asked about the status of the case.

Activists too, are waiting for the Centre's move. 

"At this moment, the battle largely legal for the simple reason that mobilising citizens is not proving to be an easy task. Though it is cumbersome, the legal route is much simpler," says Kaajal Maheshwari from citizen group Hyderabad Rising.

"We have waiting for the MoEF to make the proposal public, and the hope is that all of us will file our objections at that point. We need to sensitise the people on the issue," she adds.

'Threat to ecosystem'

When asked about the SRDP, Kaajal says, "If it was just one flyover, I would have given the state government the benefit of doubt. However, it's multiple flyovers surrounding the park. We are adaptable, but animal sensitivities are much higher."

"The constant noise, pollution and digging while construction would destroy the ecosystem, and gradually kill the park. We have already seen how lakes are killed with gradual encroachment," she adds.

Additionally, activists fear that the migratory bird corridor of the park will also get affected.

"The SRDP has never even been put up on a public forum, and is based on an outdated Comprehensive Transportation Study (CTS) from 2011. The eight-year gap is not even taken into consideration. Secondly, flyovers across the world are being removed and parks are being preserved. We are heading in the complete opposite direction with this move," Kaajal says.

"Our traffic is still manageable. The Metro will soon be functional, and be able to take a large load. Why is all this not being taken into account?" she asks.

An unperturbed government

While the activists may have managed to slow down the progress of the flyovers around KBR park, the SRDP continues to move ahead.

Just this week, GHMC commissioner B Janardhan Reddy told mediapersons that "the SRDP works include 18 projects with an estimated cost of Rs 2,631 crore and the government has issued approvals for all these projects last month."

Last month, in another controversial move, when Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao announced that the Defence Ministry had agreed to hand over Bison Polo Grounds in Secunderabad for a new Secretariat, he said that the Centre had also agreed to transfer defence lands to the state for the construction of flyovers in the area. 

Despite being faced with stiff opposition from activists and citizens, KCR remains uncompromising on his decision. 

Work on the flyovers has also started in other areas, such as the 1.23-km long flyover between Forum Sujana Mall and Rajiv Gandhi Statue Junction near JNTU.

"Politicians are only there for five or ten years. Citizens are there for life. We have to defend our share of undivided public property, and we must protest the project, which is happening at the expense of nature," Kaajal says. 

Taking the example of Bangalore's 'Steel Flyover Beda' movement, Kaajal adds, "I'm hoping that KBR park gives Hyderabad the movement it needs. It's a long shot and we are fighting against a strong system, but there is still hope." 

To mobilise more support, an online petition has also been started on, and can be found here.



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