Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BBMP steamrolls court order on UAS

BBMP steamrolls court order on UAS

Divya Gandhi
Link road through campus being metalled before panel can submit report
— PHOTO: K. GOPINATHAN

FAST TRACK: Work in full steam on the contentious link road which cuts through the University of Agricultural Sciences campus in Bangalore.
Bangalore: The ongoing hearing in the Karnataka High Court over the contentious link road through the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) Bangalore campus has not quite deterred the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) from making rapid progress on the project.

Steamrollers have begun noisily grinding granite jelly onto the 80-foot link road — that has already cost the campus over 700 trees — to connect the Yeshwanthapur-Yelahanka Road to National Highway 7. This final lap of infrastructure project comes in the backdrop of a High Court order last month appointing a six-member expert committee to assess its impact on scientific research and biodiversity and to submit a report.

Bemused experts
The expert committee — comprising academics, activists and government officials — is understandably bemused. “Our mandate was to submit a report that assesses both sides of the case. BBMP claims that the road will ease traffic congestion, while UAS has expressed concern over the loss of biodiversity and threat to research work. But of what use is the report if the roadwork is nearing completion?” asked P.K. Shetty, Dean, National Institute of Advanced Studies, who is Chairperson of the expert committee. Most of the committee members only recently received the order and will need a few more days to assess the situation, he added.

Court order
The court order of January 28, 2010 states: “The controversial issue involved in the present appeal is whether the proposed link road in question would affect/ cause loss to the university… [such as] damaging biodiversity and impediment in many areas of research work…” It adds that “… it would be just and proper to form a committee of experts who can look into the matter and give their opinion.”

The committee members include Subbarayan Prasanna, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, Indian Institute of Management; Suresh Heblikar, Chairperson of Ecowatch; S.G. Neginhal, retired IFS officer; H. Sharath Chandra, Professor at the Indian Institute of Science; and B.A. Muthanna, DCP (Traffic), Bangalore North.

Student outrage
UAS students allege that despite an interim order of September 2009 directing the BBMP to cease felling trees, the civic authority continued to do so for several weeks. “We noticed trees being felled for the road even in January,” said Sidharth Prabhakar, a B.Sc. student here who recently organised a protest meet against the link road. “There is nothing that seems to stop the BBMP: neither the High Court nor protests by civil society.”

When contacted, Veerupaksha Mysore, BBMP Joint Commissioner (Yelahanka), told The Hindu that BBMP was “respecting court directions”.

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