Officials hold PRR meet cancelled by forest minister

Officials hold PRR public meet cancelled by forest minister

Despite clear instructions from Forest Minister Anand Singh to postpone the public hearing for the Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) project, officials conducted the consultation meeting with a gathering of about 70 people on Tuesday.

The Rs 15,111-crore project which affects thousands of people has been mired in controversy for years. The Bangalore Development Authority, the agency proposing the project, disclosed last month that 33,838 trees have to be cut for the eight-lane road and not 200 as declared earlier.

After activists pointed out the dangers of holding a public hearing during the pandemic, the minister had instructed the officials to postpone the event. The KSPCB, which conducts the hearing, wrote to the Bengaluru Urban deputy commissioner regarding the issue the same day.

Much to the consternation of many, officials began the hearing at a convention hall in Singanayakanahalli on Tuesday morning. People who turned up at the hearing lambasted the KSPCB officials and the district administration for holding the event despite the minister announcing its cancellation the previous day.

Farmer leader Mavallipura Srinivas said the PRR is useless since it is being built 15 km away from the Vidhana Soudha and 1 km away from BBMP limits. “The 1.5 crore people living in the city are already suffering from air and water pollution and the PRR will not help anybody. It is better to drop this project which only benefits the realtors and industrialists,” Srinivas said.

He said farmers who lost 1,810 acres to the project have been suffering for 16 years. “No survey had been conducted, no proper compensation given to them and the project report is unscientific,” he said.

Sachin Meega, of Karnataka Kisan Congress, said the project was proposed 15 years ago and the land acquisition also took place around the same time. The validity of a project is five years and authorities should have completed within that timeframe. In case of delays, they should start afresh.

Environmentalists have already voiced their opposition to the PRR alignment which, apart from destroying the tree cover, also damages the TG Halli catchment and crosses five lakes.

Vijay Kumar, an advocate from Doddaballapura, said the whole project was wrong. The competent authorities have not taken permission from central agencies, while officials suppressed the facts from the NGT and from the court. 

An activist from Citizens for Bengaluru said the consultation was a sham. “The public isn’t present here. The PRR drawings on the project for the public are inaccurate and at variance with the 2007 alignment,” he said.

Minister vows action

Meanwhile, Forest Minister Anand Singh said two officials of the KSPCB who facilitated the meeting despite his instructions had been summoned for enquiry on Wednesday. “We were told by the district administration that they went ahead with the hearing because they didn’t get our letter in time. However, the KSPCB officials can’t give such an excuse,” he said.

Singh said the deputy commissioner had assured him about holding a fresh public hearing. Bengaluru Urban DC G N Shivamurthy told DH all suggestions and opinions were recorded. The department will call another hearing and the issue will be discussed.