‘BDA’s FAQs on Peripheral Ring Road is misleading and unscientific’
Activists and environmentalists say document does not cite any judgment regarding lakes or encroachments
Barely three days before the public consultation on the controversial Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) project, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) on Saturday published an FAQ to address some of the concerns raised by citizens’ groups and environmentalists.
The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) states that the alignment of the 8-lane 65.5-km project crosses five lakes and will affect 33,838 trees.
Environmentalists have criticised the BDA’s answers to not just the fate of the trees but also damage to T.G. Halli catchment, diversion of forest land, its impact on lakes and the threat of giving rise to heat islands.
A.N. Yellappa Reddy, environmentalist and chairman of Bangalore Environment Trust (BET), described the exercise as an eye-wash, and deemed it an attempt to mislead the public through “unscientific and irrational FAQs”. He cited the BDA’s answer to compensate for the loss of 10.12 hectare of Jarakabande Kaval Reserve Forest. “They say afforestation land will be provided adjacent to Bannerghatta National Park (BNP). This comes at a time when the eco-sensitive zone of BNP is being reduced by around 100 sq.km.,” he said.
Precast structures around lakes
While acknowledging that construction along lakes is prohibited as per The Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority Act, 2014, the BDA has suggested the use of precast structures, including flyovers, “to minimise the impact on lakes”.
Leo Saldanha of the Environment Support Group (ESG) said that the BDA had omitted judgments regarding lakes or encroachments. “It seems that they are going against all the judicial orders, including regarding buffer zones and no development zones around lakes,” he said.
T.G. Halli catchment
Commenting on removal of 9,304 trees in the T.G. Halli catchment area, Mr. Reddy said that it would lead to rapid erosion of not only soil but also green cover in the city, and the loss of geo-hydrology cannot be recreated.
“As mitigation measures, BDA plans to plant 93,040 trees (1:10) as part of ‘Catchment Area Treatment Plan’ to minimise the impact on T.G. Halli catchment area. The root biomass of these decade- or century-old trees cannot be compensated even if they plant 1:1000 times,” he said, adding that it would be detrimental to T.G. Halli reservoir, which was already suffering from garbage dumping, inflow of sewage and silt accumulation.
Tara Krishnaswamy, co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), said that the FAQs were vague without support of any study or prior approvals from the departments or ministries concerned. “Do they have approval from the Ministry of Petroleum and Minerals for the proposed flyovers at Chikkabanahalli and Kasaghattapura, the intersecting points with petroleum pipelines,” she said.
She also said that the draft EIA mentions in several places that the plan is to join the NICE road to form a ring. “But the villages listed in the report don’t show it joining the NICE road at Madanayakanhalli and Doddathogur. To join the NICE road, another 150 acres have to be acquired, and that has not been done yet,” she added.
The public consultation for PRR is scheduled on August 18, amidst calls for the BDA to allow online submissions as well. According to Mr. Saldanha, the consultation meeting itself is a “criminal act of organising assembly in violation of the Disaster Management Act.”
Error in tree count
The FAQs have conceded that there was an error while counting the trees by the consultant engaged for preparation of EIA studies. It acknowledges that 33,838 trees have been recorded within 100 metres of the Right of Way (RoW) out of which 13,799 are plantation trees, 11,417 are horticulture trees and 8,622 other trees.
As many as 2,077 species of trees possessing social and cultural significance, such as Bilvapatre, Ankole, Bevu, Kadu Nelli, Srigandha, Banni and Arali mara, will be considered for transplantation.