Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Halt road work through campus to save biodiversity and lung space

Halt road work through campus to save biodiversity and lung space

As road construction work goes on at the Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra campus, yet another green space is being lost to official apathy. Will Bangalore just sit and watch the space turn into a road that may not solve the connectivity issue as it claims? Vaishalli Chandra reports

Vaishalli Chandra



AN oasis, rich in biodiversity, away from city's concrete jungle is getting destroyed in the name of development. Back in April, students of Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra (GKVK), faculty members, and scientists had opposed the construction of a road through their campus.
Six months later, many trees have disappeared. In their place now lay heaps of stones for road works even as crowds of protesters gather regularly. This 100ft road will connect Attur to national highway 7 and the international airport.
While civic authorities may claim that this link road is the answer to connectivity for commuters from Attur area, the stretch is not a short route. There is an existing road that starts from Attur, passes Unnikrishnan Road through Yelhanka and meets at Kogilu junction running a distance of 6km approximately. The proposed road that starts from Attur, and passes through GKVK campus to Kogilu junction, is about 12km. Looks like commuting on this proposed road will take more time to reach the airport.
Authorities have all along maintained that the land belonged to the government and that it was granted to the university. However, former vice-chancellor Dr KV Devraj questioned this claim.
"Does that give them the right to take it back? Two thousand acres were given to the agriculture university as they have to conduct research, and to see that food production is enhanced. Experiments need to be conducted, proved and their viability to be checked. That is how new species are evolved," he said.
In the next decade or two, the demand for food will go to 250 million. "How will we meet the demand if there is not enough production enhancement done," he said.
He pointed out how a road near the campus could have a damaging effect.
"From the time a seed is sowed to flowering, a series of studies has to be conducted. A road will bring traffic and raise dust. Dust will kill the plants. There will be no insects or birds — both are vital for the pollination process — affecting plant growth and the studies," he said.
Although the protests were started by the university, now they have taken a back seat, with even the land transfer in place. Dr PG Chenappa, vice-chancellor of the University of Agricultural Science, GKVK, says, "We have agreed in good faith after the width was reduced to 24 metres."
Asked whether more GKVK land will be acquired to accommodate the growing needs of the city, he said, "We will watch. We hope it will not happen." Saddened by the change of stand by the University of Agricultural Sciences, residents around the area have taken up the cause.
"We came to this part of town to get far from the madding crowd. Now the road is right across our compounds," said Vasantha Kumar S, a resident in Vidyaranyapura.
KS Reddy, chief conservator of forest, said his department had received a complaint from the residents on the road work. "We have directed it to the state government." However, if the Palike has sent a letter stating they will not undertake any work on that stretch, "they should keep their word and not do any work."
While there is a case in the court, work is under way. Deputy forest officer Devraj said about 600 trees had been felled for the road works. While a letter from the BBMP states that no work will go on, work is in progress, he said.
"As far as forest area is concerned, we think they [the BBMP] are not doing any work."

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