Residents living around Old Airport Road and Suranjan Das Road junction (the HAL junction) in Bengaluru, staged a protest on Sunday against the felling of trees. A total of 25 trees were to be cut according to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), to pave the way for an underpass. Nearly 150-200 people from surrounding areas gathered and formed a human chain, around the junction, from 8 am onwards to mark their protest.
Swathi Damodaran, a resident-activist, who was at the site said that the public was not consulted and said that there must be an alternate way to create the underpass without cutting down the trees. “We had gathered from 8 am until 10.30 am, and formed a human chain to mark our protest. They are cutting down trees that provide shelter and which are 60-80 years old. How did the tree committee approve of this project?” she asked.
Swathi then claimed that as soon as the public dispersed, the workers tried to cut the trees. “After we dispersed and returned to our homes, I received a call from my brother and he said that the workers had begun trying to ax the trees. They cited that they had all the necessary permissions,” she said. “We immediately contacted the official-in-charge and asked them to halt the cutting. Residents like us are feeling helpless that there is not much we can do in the matter.”
She further asked, “Why is public consent not being taken into consideration though? We have made our resistance so clear, yet the officials are not taking cognisance of the issue.”
Ranganatha Swamy, Deputy Conservator of Forests, BBMP, said that the axing was temporarily halted. He maintained that the project was being carried out after consulting the committees and obtaining all the required permission. He said, “We are working based on the decision given by the higher officials and concerned committees. By following the orders, I am carrying out my duties. We cannot halt the project after obtaining the required clearances."