Slicing through 120 fully grown trees in Cubbon Park, the North-South Elevated Corridor is set to totally destroy the celebrated green aesthetics of the park and the Mahatma Gandhi Circle. The project comes just a year after a monster integrated skywalk threatened to kill the iconic circle. The project will cut into the Cubbon Park space right from Minsk Square up to Hudson Circle. The green canopy spreading out from the fully grown trees on the existing median will soon be history. The corridor from Hebbal to Central Silk Board is being taken up under Phase 1 of the controversial project. Aligned on the entire stretch of Queen’s Road and Kasturba Road with Cubbon Park on one side by, the corridor is a clear violation of the Karnataka Parks, Playfields and Open Spaces (Preservation and Regulation) Act, notes Leo Saldanha from the Environmental Support Group (ESG).
The Supreme Court too had ruled that no development other than that related to the park can take place inside Cubbon Park. The corridor is a non-park construction. “The Metro too was taken underground on this stretch for this precise reason,” he says. But in defence of this planned destruction of Bengaluru’s much-cherished lung space, the project’s environmental impact assessment report only talks about the inevitability of tree loss. The report was submitted by the project executor, Karnataka Road Development Corporation Ltd (KRDCL). The impact on the trees is unavoidable, says the report. “The alignment of the corridor is taken almost along the existing roads which have substantial width to accommodate lanes for the projected traffic. There will be a significant impact on trees by the construction of elevated corridors.” But it also cites the Compensatory Afforestation Policy under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 to contend that every tree cut will be replaced with a minimum of 10 trees. “Where feasible, all possible efforts shall be made to transplant the trees to a safer and preapproved location.” However, Vinay Srinivasa from the Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike contested this rationale: “If you lose a tree on the roadside, how can transplanting it elsewhere address the pollution level that rises? This is a deliberate underestimation of the eco-impact. The M G Road area will be terribly affected,” he warns. Srinivas Alavilli from Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) reminds that Brand Bengaluru has an emotional connect with its green spaces, the Cubbon Park in particular. “Why this tearing hurry to deface the park for an elevated corridor, when the suburban train project is waiting to be expedited?” wonders Alavilli.