Road-widening, Metro cost City 60K trees in 15 years

Road-widening, Metro cost City 60K trees in 15 years

In the past decade, Bengaluru — once famous as India’s Garden City for its green spaces — has lost most of its trees.

According to an estimate by the Environmental Support Group (ESG), a Bengaluru-based NGO, “50,000 trees were felled to widen a series of streets in the late 2000s. And between 2011 and 2014, 9,281 trees were felled for the City’s metro and other road-widening projects. The City’s peri-urban outskirts – once full of orchards – have also lost hundreds of trees to pave the way for the expansion of a City whose 47 per cent growth rate between 2001 and 2011 was the highest in India.”

This estimate, according to ESG, is a conservative one and if the orchards are taken into account, hundreds more would have been felled.

The High Court, says Leo Saldanha of ESG, had earlier passed an order stating that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Forest department were not doing enough to protect trees. “The order clearly states that there needs to be greater citizen participation and that the BBMP and the Forest department should take the lead in afforestation of the City,” says Saldanha.
The BBMP and forest officials, however, say they have planted saplings running into lakhs. It is not possible to plant a sapling exactly where a tree may have been felled because it may not be the right environment, say the BBMP officials. They say the loss has been compensated by planting saplings in all four zones of the City - West, East, North and South. It is subjective to say how many trees may have been felled.

A document that the BBMP produced before the High Court in 2014 claimed that between 2007 and 2013, the forest wing of the civic body had planted more than 10 lakh trees and, on an average, 63.5 per cent of the saplings had survived. “There are lakhs of saplings planted by us and you will see the full impact of this greenery in five years. The next decade will be a completely green decade,” the BBMP forest cell has said.

The number of trees felled in Bengaluru may be the highest compared with other metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad. According to environmentalists, there’s a virtual war going on between felling of trees and planting of saplings. Even if saplings are planted as an alternative to the tree-felling, the environmental damage done by the felling is said to be far above the impact of the planting of saplings.

Environmentalist Yellappa Reddy says nearly five lakh saplings may have been planted to counter the loss of trees in thousands. “We and private citizens and groups from civil society have planted saplings all around Bengaluru and I believe that in the next five years, you will see a far greener Bengaluru than what you see now.”

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