The GHMC had earlier stated that 1900 trees would be cut to make way for the KBR Flyover in Hyderabad but was forced to revise this figure after protests by citizen groups.

Hyd civic body wants to cut 600 trees for flyover down from 1900 Activists scoff
news Environment Wednesday, January 02, 2019 - 16:53

Following protests by citizen groups, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has decided to revise the number of trees that will cut down as part of the road widening works for the KBR flyover. While the GHMC had earlier stated that 1900 trees would be cut down, this has now been revised to 600.

However, Hyderabadis who protested against the GHMC’s move to axe the trees say cutting of any tree in the ecologically sensitive zone is a strict ‘No’. “Who is going to check physically which tree and how many trees are actually being cut? The government is doing this just to gain public sympathy for the project,” said Kaajal Maheshwari, one of the core members of the team that helped organise the protest before KBR Park on December 23.

The KBR National Park is an eco-sensitive zone in the heart of Hyderabad. The state government intends to build six flyovers in and around the area, which they say will ease traffic until 2040. The flyover project is part of the state’s Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP) to construct multi-layer flyovers over 20 key junctions in the city. As part of the project, initially 3,000 trees were initially expected to be cut, the number was then brought down to 1900 and now to 600.

“They are doing this with the sanction of the Tree Protection Committee who is giving permission for cutting the trees,” Kaajal added.  

The decision to cut any tree in Hyderabad is taken by the TPC, an arm of the GHMC. The committee that went defunct in 2008 was revived again in 2016, and consists of members from Forest Department, HMDA, GHMC and NGOs. However, an ex-member of the committee told TNM, “The decisions to cut trees are taken unilaterally and not all those who are part of the committee have a say on the matter always.”

This was reflected in the TPC’s decision in May 2016 to give the green signal to axe over 3,000 trees for the KBR flyover project. However, the move was stayed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The officials from TPC were unavailable for comment. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests who has also gave the go-ahead for the project and is part of TPC was also unavailable for comment.

“They do not have the legal right to widen roads in an eco-sensitive zone. It's not about just cutting trees, it's about the park and what a national park is entitled to,” Kaajal added.

Those working in the domain of urban transport say there are other ways to improve traffic conditions than opting for road widening that would end up killing trees.

“Flyovers do nothing except to provide a momentary illusion to the people that the traffic congestion at that particular point has reduced. However, they do not realise, that they are now stuck for a longer period at a different location, thus actually increasing the total travel time of a trip than before constructing the flyover,” said Prashanth Kumar Bachu, Project Manager, Urban Transport, EMBARQ India, an organisation working on sustainable cities. “The travel time for an 8-10 km trip passing through flyovers will result in the commuter spending more time at traffic at other junctions. When you open a flyover, more people will start using the route leading to traffic congestions at the next junction. Flyovers only redistribute and add to traffic, it does not solve traffic.

This can be experimentally verified whether it is the Mindspace multilevel flyover or the Gachibowli flyover or any other flyover. This proves the point that the KBR flyovers are only going to make things worse for people,” he added.