With multiple infrastructure projects being cleared during times of Covid, taking advantage of the lockdown, we have another one to add to the list! -- The Bangalore - Chennai Expressway.
The official numbers suggest that in the first phase of the Bangalore-Chennai Expressway 20,748 trees in Karnataka will be cut down.Through the earlier reports suggest cutting down of more than one lakh trees. According to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report of the project, the first phase covers 71 km of the total 330 km length of the expressway, stretching from the edge of Bengaluru to Bethamangala near Mulbagal in Kolar district.
The biggest loss of trees is in the dry region of Kolar, where 16,049 trees, including 9,805 horticulture trees, are located in the 'right of way' (ROW) of the road. Neighbouring Bengaluru Rural district is set to lose 4,699 trees, including 2,837 horticultural trees.
In an earlier version of the EIA published in 2019, it was estimated that 22,505 trees in Kolar and 4,699 trees in Bengaluru Rural district would be culled to make way for the expressway. This included tree species like Ashoka, neem, silver oak, hebbevu, teak, gobbali, honge, acasia, nelli and more. The EIA also mentioned that the primary tree species to be cut will be eucalyptus trees.
Phase 1 of the project also covers 72 villages, and over 5,000 families will be affected by the acquisition of the 1,890 acres of land needed for the construction of the expressway.
Apart from the first phase of the project focused in the Karnataka limits of the expressway, it will also see further trees cut in Tamil Nadu. The project will also build a route to Kolar Gold Fields in Kolar district.
Earlier this year, a draft EIA report stated that the peripheral ring road project in Bengaluru will lead to the removal of over 33,000 trees as opposed to removal of only 200-500 trees. The BDA had argued erroneously for over four years that the environmental damage due to the project was minimal. The earlier EIA report suggested cutting down more than one lakh trees but the new official numbers suggest close to 20,000 trees being cut for the project. This may be another one of those projects where impact has not truly been estimated.
In current times, when we are seeing the distratous impact of rising air pollution,our governments need to rethink their priorities and reconsider decisions to go forth with large scale infrastructure projects that are going to have severe impact on the environment.