Employing the Mumbai metro’s playbook, the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) felled a series of trees along Bannerghatta Road after nightfall on Tuesday, a full ten hours before the Karnataka High Court considered a petition opposing the move.
The High Court subsequently issued a stay order on Wednesday at noon, stopping the cutting of trees.
The incident came to light on Tuesday night after reports from activists proliferated on social media about the illegal felling taking place near the fire station on Bannerghatta Road. Activist Arun Kumar, who filmed the tree cutting being carried out at Jayanagar police station by a contractor working on behalf of the BMRCL, said the incident had left him stunned and enraged.
“I just happened to be driving along Bannerghatta Road when I heard the whir of chainsaws. There was a compound wall. After I crossed over it, I found a mass of workers, many without proper safety equipment, tearing down trees,” Prasad said.
The incident comes nine days after activists moved the High Court against the permission given by the Bengaluru Bruhat Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to the BMRCL to cut down 165 trees along the upcoming Gottigere-Nagawara metro line of Phase 2 (Reach 6). The objection also contested the grounds on which the permission had been given.
“What was the need for their haste to cut down these trees, if not to remove them before the High Court passed judgment on the matter? This is a complete flouting of the law,” Prasad said.
A BMRCL spokesperson said that the tree cutting was being carried out in accordance with the BBMP order. The order had become active on June 5.
According to the objection filed by Dattatreya T Devare of Bangalore Environment Trust, “BMRCL and BBMP have been officially informed not to initiate any felling till the hearing takes place” on Wednesday.
Prasad, who has now lodged a complaint with the BBMP Deputy Conservator of Forests H S Ranganathaswamy, pointed out the tree cutting was not only premature but also violated several regulations and laws.
“For one, tree cutting is supposed to happen under the supervision of police and a tree officer from the BBMP but none were on-site on Tuesday night. Second, only essential activists are permitted after curfew hours. Is tree cutting an essential service?” he asked.
When asked about why the cutting was taking place at night and why there was no BBMP or police supervision of the activity, he said BMRCL had no information about this and would look into the matter.