The Telangana government reportedly plans to strip the Kasu Brahmananda Reddy (KBR) National Park, Hyderabad’s iconic green cover, off its Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ), for its Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP).
Under the SRDP, the state plans to construct multi-layer flyovers over 20 key junctions in the city. One of the flyovers would require trees to be axed at KBR Park.
This decision has resulted in the state facing flak from citizens and activists.
The Times of India reported that the state has tabled a proposal before the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) which urges the Centre to “limit the ESZ around KBR buffer zone as zero metres”.
Eco-Sensitive Zones or ESZs are areas notified by the Centre, to ensure a ‘buffer zone’ around an ecologically sensitive zone like a national park, to ensure that the areas inside the zone are protected.
This ensures that no disruptive measures like construction activity or demolitions can take place around the zone.
Ironically, activists point out that Telangana had sent a proposal in December 2015, to declare the KBR park walkway an eco-sensitive zone, but the state’s own Principal Chief Conservator of Forests filed an objection in May last year, stating that the area of the ESZ should be reduced, to accommodate the SRDP project.
However, the state has reportedly justified its latest move.
The TOI report quotes the proposal as saying, “The protective wall around KBR NP provides total protection to flora and fauna inside the national park from biotic pressures. Hence, there is a strong case for notifying zero metres ESZ around KBR NP in Hyderabad just as was done for Guindy National Park in Chennai.”
In July last year, amid much controversy, the state accorded administrative approval for the project at a cost of Rs 2,631 crore. The cost has since been revised to a whopping Rs 4,050 crore.
Following a PIL filed in the Hyderabad High Court, the court told the state that “cutting trees is no solution.”
The NGT too directed the Telangana government to maintain status quo around KBR park while staying a government order (GO 19) that granted “permission to fell trees” citing “ease of doing business”.
Presently, the state is going ahead with its other construction works which were part of the SRDP. It also said that it is translocating some trees instead of axing them for the project.
Meanwhile, several citizens continue to gather every week at KBR Park on Sundays under the banner of ‘Hyderabad Rising’, to protest against the SRDP, and raise awareness among citizens.