As K'taka scraps steel flyover, Hyderabad activists get boost in fight for KBR park

Hyderabadis took to the streets last April against the Telangana government’s SRDP project.
As K'taka scraps steel flyover, Hyderabad activists get boost in fight for KBR park
As K'taka scraps steel flyover, Hyderabad activists get boost in fight for KBR park
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In a massive victory for citizen groups, the Karnataka government announced the scrapping of the controversial steel flyover in Bengaluru on Thursday. 

This in turn has given activists in Hyderabad, who have been fighting against the axing of trees in the city's iconic Kasu Brahmananda Reddy (KBR) park for months now, a sense of renewed hope. 

The activists have challenged the Telangana government's Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP), which proposes to decongest traffic in the IT corridor, but at the price of green cover.

"It has given us a lot of hope. However, there are certain differences. While the steel flyover in Bengaluru was a single project, the SRDP is a much bigger project, with the KBR flyover still being a small part of it," says Sree Harsha, a member of Hyderabad Rising, a group which has been fighting the case on the streets, and in court. 

Under the SRDP, the state plans to construct multi-layer flyovers over 20 key junctions in the city. One of the flyovers would require trees to be axed at KBR Park.

As soon as the decision was announced by the state, scores of Hyderabadis took to the streets in April last year, holding placards and rallying against losing trees in the KBR park.

While activists moved the Hyderabad High Court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to get a stay on construction activity around the park, the state is going ahead with its other construction works which were part of the SRDP.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be roughly Rs 22,000 crore. 

"We couldn't stop everything. The SRDP is still going on, and they have already cut down trees in areas like Kukatpally, but we have to keep trying," Harsha adds.

As of now, the activists continue to battle it out in court. 

"We are at the final hearing stage. There was a hearing in front of the NGT on March 1. As of now, the petitioners, and the state government have made their case. A response from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is awaited," explains Suruchi Singh, one of the lawyers involved in the case. 

"In the previous hearing, the MoEF submitted two letters to the court, and one of the letters was from the Deputy Inspector General of Forests to the state's Forest Department, claiming that since KBR park was a national park, it would come under the purview of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972," she notes.

Stating that no permission of a standing committee was taken, the MoEF's counsel also informed the NGT that an 'eco-sensitive' zone had to be declared before construction could begin, in line with previous NGT judgements like the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

"We also brought to the court's notice, that Telangana had sent a proposal in December 2015, to declare the KBR park walkway an eco-sensitive zone, but the state's own Principal Chief Conservator of Forests filed an objection after the protests in May last year, stating that the area of the ESZ should be reduced, to accommodate the SRDP project," Suruchi says.

The court has posted the case to March 16, when activists expect the final judgement.

As far as citizen activism in Hyderabad goes, Harsha says that people have been active, but sustaining the movement is a hurdle. 

The core team of Hyderabad Rising consists of less than 10 members, while several others constantly pitch in and help out. 

"People have always come out in Hyderabad to fight for issues. 'Save KBR Park' was one of the biggest movements I've seen. However, what is tough, is to continue to draw crowds, and sustain that momentum," he says.

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