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'We don't want Metro, we want trees'

Bengaluru, Nov 25, 2015, DHNS: 0:22 IST

Uproar at public meeting over proposal to chop trees for rail project

Metro rail. DH file photo
A public meeting called by the BBMP in regard to the proposed felling of 313 trees for the Metro rail project witnessed angry scenes and protest by members of the general public and NGOs at the Palike office in Malleswaram on Tuesday. “We don’t want metro, we want trees,” they shouted.

The forest officials, who were under pressure, immediately asked the Metro authorities to conduct a GIS mapping of the entire network where trees were supposed to be cut.
They then stopped the meeting midway abruptly. When a Metro official started talking of how transport had evolved from the ox-cart to the present day trains, an enraged public said: “We are aware of this. There is no need for this information.”

The Environment Support Group representative Leo Saldanha made a presentation on the effects of tree-cutting by Metro and later read out court documents to prove how this would happen and how the Metro should comply with the order.

Saldanha said Namma Metro had to comply with the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act 1961 and ensure land use according to the Act. But instead, the Metro undertook its phase one in violation of the 1961 Act.

The High Court took the Metro to task for this and has now stated the land use should be according to the Act, at least in phase two.

The activists insisted that the Metro proposal on tree-cutting could not be accepted by the BBMP as it violated the Act. They also said Metro had not provided the public with all the relevant information and was therefore not transparent.

A senior official from the Indian Council of Horticultural Research (ICHR), A Bhanu, who was part of the debate, said the Metro had actually planned to cut 500 trees for extension of the lines, but after various considerations and negotiations, the number had been brought down to 313.

“We have a right to know which are the 500 trees originally planned to be cut. Andhra Pradesh had undertaken GIS work and had reduced the number of trees to be cut. Why can’t the same thing be done here, too?

Technical people like us can help build a GIS data and help in cutting down the number of trees facing axe, the official said. Metro Engineer Vijayakumar Maurya intervened and said if permission was delayed to cut the trees, the cost of the metro project would go up rapidly. To which an activist from NGO Hasiru Usiru said, “We know the Metro started with a budget of Rs 5,000 crore and we also know how much it has ended up spending for phase one.”

Most of the activists were against the tree-cutting proposal and suggested that the meeting, instead of being held in Malleswaram, be held at Mysore Road or Kanakapura Road where more people would turn up.

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