Thursday, May 13, 2010

No eco-assessment for Vidhana Soudha station

No eco-assessment for Vidhana Soudha station

Anil Kumar Sastry and B.S. Ramesh
Expert recommends shifting of underground station towards M.S. Building
— Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Heavy Duty: Technically, environmental clearance is not mandatory for the metro project, but there are fears the construction may impact the Attara Kacheri, a heritage building.
Bangalore: The underground stretch of Namma Metro near Vidhana Soudha has not yet been cleared by the State Cabinet. Not only that, the change in alignment will result in the felling of 196 trees in and around Cubbon Park. Worse, environment impact assessment has not been carried on the route that passes between the Vidhana Soudha and the High Court.

In fact, one committee member appointed by the High Court has suggested that the Vidhana Soudha station be shifted to the M.S. Buildings some distance away.

Original alignment

An environment impact assessment had been conducted by Bangalore University for the original alignment as per the Detailed Project Report (DPR) prepared by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. This underground alignment would have taken a right turn before Gopala Gowda Circle, passed through Cubbon Park and surfaced above the ground near the Bal Bhavan. It was altered in September 2005 to enable it to pass by the Vidhana Soudha.

This decision was taken to save about 70 trees. For the Bal Bhavan alignment, the DPR had suggested two alternative sites for the down ramp on M.G. Road, if the Government was wary of using Cubbon Park land. With the perceived intention of not hurting Cubbon Park, the Government then decided to shift the alignment via the Vidhana Soudha, which increased the route by about one km and the expenditure by about Rs.180 crore. But ironically, the altered alignment will now endanger 196 trees. During a recent hearing on a PIL (public interest litigation) challenging the use of Cubbon Park land for Namma Metro, the High Court pointed out to the Government and the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation that the alignment change was not backed by a Cabinet sanction. Meanwhile, a committee appointed by the court, headed by Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath on allowing use of Cubbon Park land, submitted its report and recommended permitting it.

Technically, environmental clearance is not mandatory for the metro project. But, committee member R. Venkataraman, retired ISRO chief engineer, wrote to the Chief Secretary that it was essential to get a rapid environment impact assessment (EIA) carried out “so as to get sufficient information on the environmental impact … the construction would involve cutting of trees, removal of surface and ornamental vegetation, cordoning off of the park area for security reasons, noise pollution, dust emission and vibration by tunnel boring machine”. The activity may impact the century-old heritage building housing the High Court, he warned, and recommended that the underground station may be shifted towards the Multi-Storeyed Building (M.S. Building). Asked if BMRCL had any EIA done for the changed alignment, the corporation's spokesperson said the committee headed by the Chief Secretary had addressed the issue in its report to the High Court.

Cryptic report

However, the report had only this much to say: “All the valuable suggestions made by the Hon'ble Members of the Committee have been examined in detail and taken into consideration. The Committee is of the opinion that the Metro Rail Project would substantially reduce the environment pollution and in this process protection of environment by commissioning of the project should not be lost sight.” It then suggested planting of 10 saplings for each tree felled in Cubbon Park.


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