Academic road blocks

Tussle over link road through UAS campus

R Dwarkinath, former VC, UAS

The presence of two endangered butterflies - Crimson Rose and Danaid Eggfly - testifies this. But the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP)'s insistence on building a road linking Yeshwanthpur-Yelahanka extension to Bellary Road (NH 7) imperilled this hotspot of biodiversity.

While the University's governing body, the Body of Regents, did a flip-flop on giving 24 acres to the BBMP in 2009, the latter's demand for 12 more acres really annoyed it. The BBMP almost had its way by constructing the 80-feet road till the Canara Bank Layout.

The road runs from MS Palya to the National Institute for Biological Sciences (NIBS). As a result, nearly 700 trees were felled. The civic body contends that it needs additional land to build the road from Canara Bank Layout via GKVK (at NIBS) and L&T Gate.

After a blame-game, the matter went to the High Court which formed a six-member expert committee asking it to assess the impact of infrastructure projects on scientific research and biodiversity and submit a report. The Committee, chaired by P K Shetty, Dean, National Institute of Advanced Studies, opined that the road would seriously damage the biodiversity in the long run.

Pushed to the backfoot due to strong opposition from the university and environmentalists, the BBMP built the road acquiring nearly 22,000 square feet of private land, including the one belonging to an educational institute, at another place. It connected the road with the one running in front of the GKVK which touched the NH-7. “The road runs like a zigzag but we had no other option. The road near the Aurobindo School is about 60 feet wide and vehicles ply there easily,” a BBMP engineer, involved in the project, said.

This, however, is only a temporary measure as the matter is still before the High Court. If the High Court rules in BBMP’s favour, the dynamics of the case is bound to change. The UAS also wants the BBMP to return 24 acres it had given earlier.

According to R Dwarkinath, former Vice Chancellor, the issue is a 'disgrace' to the civil society. “The University was modelled on the lines of the Land-grant universities of the USA. Those who argue that the University's property should extend only to its buildings are in an illusion. It's not a post office or a railway station where you don't require land for nurturing plants. A student of agriculture cannot obtain a degree until he/she acquires knowledge of horticulture. For this, the University needs land so that it can develop biodiversity,” he argues.   

Dr Dwarkinath suggests that the road can be built on some other land. "There's no logic in breaking down an existing institution to make way for a new one," he reasons.

Casting doubts about BBMP's motives, he says lack of foresight and lobbying by the real estate mafia is to be blamed. “They are eyeing the land to shoot up the prices of the surrounding localities. Moreover, once vehicles start zooming on the stretch, its biodiversity will hardly survive,” Dwarkinath said.

The Government appears to have not given up its fight as the case is still pending with the High Court. The Environment Support Group (ESG) has rallied behind the GKVK.

Sunil Dutt Yadav, counsel for ESG, said that the GKVK authorities passed a resolution at a board meeting three months ago to get the entire land back from the BBMP. The copy of the resolution has also been submitted to the High Court, Yadav adds.

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