Activists allege 7,000 trees to be felled in Karnataka for road widening, without procedure

The public has been trying to engage with due process to save trees, but officials are interested only in taking the project forward, activists allege.
Activists allege 7,000 trees to be felled in Karnataka for road widening, without procedure
Activists allege 7,000 trees to be felled in Karnataka for road widening, without procedure

Activists are accusing the Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL) of flouting norms and going ahead with a controversial plan to fell over close to 7,000 trees for multiple road-widening projects. The KRDCL plans to widen six major roads, which will cause the felling of 6,798 trees. However, activists following up on the matter said that officials have not followed the required procedures needed to go ahead with the project.

The project includes the widening of existing roads: namely Hoskote Budigere cross to KIAL, Nelamangala to Madhura, Madhure to Devanahalli via Rajanakunte, Bidadi to Jigani via Harohalli, Attibele to Sarjapura (SH35), and Besthamanahalli (south of Attibele) to Hoskote Road (NH4), towards Kempegowda International Airport.

According to figures consolidated by the KRDCL, a total of 9799 trees are being considered for cutting in the area. Out of these trees, 724 are being considered for translocation, 6,798 will be cut for sure, 1,763 additional trees may or may not be cut depending on the project requirement and 514 may be saved.

However, activists say neither of the above projects have been issued a DPR (Detailed Project Report), which gives the detailed information regarding the project, the scientific basis for undertaking it and the cost estimate. A government official with knowledge of the matter said, “No major projects can take place without the DPR. It is a report that contains detailed information and cost estimates regarding the project. Even tenders cannot be called for without the DPR.”

TNM had previously reported that residents who attended the public hearings regarding tree fellings were against the road widening project as there was not enough traffic to warrant the project. They were also opposed to the felling of trees in the vicinity.

“This tree has been growing since I was a child, and people coming to our shop enjoy its shade and its beauty. Now some officials have come and painted a number on it to chop it down. We feel angry and helpless that we were not consulted about this. We do not agree with the plan,” said Keerthi, a local from Sarjapur, at the public consultation held regarding the trees to be cut in the vicinity of Sarjapur and Varthur.

However, the KRDCL reports that the public consultations have taken place and the public had given their approval for the same.

KRDCL officials also reiterated that the tenders have already been issued to private companies.

TNM has reached out to KRDCL for comments, to no avail. 

“This clearly goes against the due process that the KRDCL is supposed to do. How can they go ahead with the road widening project without public approval or even giving their final report on the matter?” asks one activist who has been keenly watching the proceedings.

According to a High Court order in a case filed by Dattatraya T Devare, in cases where more than 50 trees are to be cut, the public needs to be consulted after looking at all alternatives to save the trees.

TNM has accessed a preliminary cost estimate of one of the projects, namely the road widening on NH4. The report was by the private company Infra Support Engineering Consultants Pvt. Ltd. In it, they estimate that the project will cost Rs 254 crore for 20.11 km stretch, at the rate of Rs 8.44 crore per km.

Speaking to TNM, Srinivas Aluvalli, an activist in Bengaluru, said that Bengaluru is a cash horse for infrastructure projects. “KRDCL is a Karnataka company that is supposed to make roads around the state, not just around Bengaluru. Why are they focused only on the roads around Bengaluru? There are roads in terrible condition between Hassan and Mangaluru but the KRDCL does not even bother about it. The fact is that making roads around Bengaluru is better for them because they can make a lot of money,” he says.

Editor’s note: TNM had earlier published the copy stating that the KRDCL plans to widen only two major roads, which will cause the felling of more than 1,800 trees. 

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