More than a century old, the All Saints Church in Richmond Town on Hosur Road in central Bengaluru is a reminiscence of what the Garden City used to be. The church complex alone is home to more than a 100 trees, with lush green lawns that are dotted with benches. Other than the greenery, there is also a school for children with learning and cognitive disabilities and an old age home.
But with the planned metro construction for the Dairy Circle to Nagawara line (part of the Namma Metro Phase II), some fear all of this will be lost. While the stretch will be mostly underground, a proposed station will replace this school and old age home along with the tree cover. Many fear that the construction activity will impact the heritage church structure itself.
“Half of the church complex will go. With all the tunnel digging and drilling, it will affect the heritage structure of the 150-year-old church,” activist Arun Prasad said.
Activists concerned with conserving the remnants of Bengaluru’s famed green cover have lent support to the cause. A Change.org petition seeking a change in plan from the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited has been supported by more than 6,400 people within a day.
Joseph Hoover, a conservationist and part of the United Conservation Movement, said, “As many as 80 trees, some over 100 years old, are expected to be cut at All Saints Church compound. This could be avoided as Bengaluru is already in the throes of a severe water crisis. We cannot afford to lose so many trees. Also, the pollution level is barely 2 PPM away from irrecoverable disaster. Already the children and elderly are choking. The trees are a roosting spot many species of birds. The rare Paradise Flycatcher is a common sight in this micro-climate ecosystem.”
The activists also fear that the lush green campus will be converted to a dumpsite. The petition states that the church has already given over two acres of land to Bangalore Metro Water and through which the surrounding areas like Ashok Nagar, Langford Town, Richmond Town and Austin Town get drinking water.
The commercial property the ground owned, which housed a petrol pump, Toms Hotel, Fatima Bakery and Daniel Garage, has already been handed to BMRCL for the same metro project.
Hoover added, “BMRCL could possibly use the open, barren space at the Central Military Police for its temporary workshop. This would be a win-win situation for all concerned. Trees could be saved. Birds could continue to roost and thrive. Development also could be done and pollution could be controlled.”
Officials allay fears
However, BMRCL MD Ajay Seth has tried to allay fears, stating that there will not be any damage to the church building.
“The fears are entirely misplaced. There won’t be any damage to the church building. We have done this kind of work in Bengaluru, especially in the busy Chickpet area earlier during Phase-I. We have done several underground stations then, like in front of HAL office, Vidhan Soudha and nothing has happened to any of the buildings. The station will come in the vacant area adjoining the road and not below the church. And another part of the station will come in the Army land," BMRCL MD Ajay Seth told TNM.
”We have been talking extensively to the church authorities and have taken their suggestions. Regarding the school and old age home, we have suggested that we can help them in hiring an adjoining building for the next couple of years and if they want us to build those buildings once the metro station is ready, that can also be done,” he added