While KRDCL has claimed ignorance over trees axed in the Bannerghatta buffer zone, the state government has failed to file an inquiry report even after two months.

Trees cut along the KRDCL road expansion project in Bannergahata Ecosensitive ZoneTrees felled in Bannerghatta buffer zone
news Environment Tuesday, June 08, 2021 - 15:40

The Karnataka High Court on June 7 observed that the state government and the Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited must plant five times the number of trees that have been felled within the buffer zone of Bannerghatta National Park. The observation came as a bench led by Chief Justice AS Oka was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) against a state highway project— Bangalore Surrounding Roads— spread across the periphery of Bengaluru. The project involves widening a 15-km stretch from Nelamangala to Madhure; 23-km stretch from Madhure to Devanahalli; 33-km stretch from Bidadi to Jigani; 33-km from Bannerghatta to Anekal; and the 39-km stretch from Anekal to Hoskote by KRDCL, a state government body.

The petitioners want the HC to junk the project and save 8561 trees that they surveyed along the 150-km length of the proposed project. Their contention was that the construction began without mandated legal environmental, forest and wildlife clearances. It is not immediately clear how many trees have been felled due to the project so far.

The HC observation on June 7 came after the state government failed to submit its inquiry report on the tree felling along the project corridor within the BNP buffer zone, a notified eco-sensitive area. This, even though HC gave the state two months’ time after Rajani Santosh, one of the petitioners pointed out that trees had been felled at Uraganadoddi village in March. The KRDCL maintained that they have no role in the tree cuttings.

While the state government did not submit the report, it orally admitted that tree felling has taken place on the side of KRDCL road alignment. The HC has now given the state another two weeks’ time to file the same report. 

“On 22nd June, the onus for compensatory afforestation will be divided based on an enquiry report of the state government,” the court observed. 

The HC has not granted stay in the project so far. In addition to the 8561 trees that the petitioners surveyed, they detailed that the ecological destruction due to the project will be catastrophic for Bengaluru and its surroundings.  The petition was filed by advocate Sreeja Chakraborty on behalf of petitioners Voice of Sarjapur (a local resident group), Jhatkaa.org (a campaigning platform) and individual Rajani Santosh. The petition pointed out that this large-scale tree felling, damage to lakes and cutting of hills will not only create urban heat for Bengaluru but also impact water security in the region. The petitioners had also pointed out that destruction of wildlife habitat by the project will be detrimental to schedule 1 species of fauna such as elephants, tigers, leopards and slender loris, all listed under the Wildlife (Protected) Act 1972.  Incidentally till date, KRDCL, the project proponent has failed to produce a detailed project report and is carrying out the project with ad-hoc planning.