BENGALURU: The Karnataka High Court issued notices to the state and central governments on a public interest litigation, which alleged that the Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited is unlawfully constructing a ‘new state highway project’, called the ‘Bengaluru Surrounding Road’, of 155.21 km length without prior environment clearance under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.
Hearing the petition filed by Jhatkaa.Org and two others, a division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum issued the notices.
Pointing out that the clearance was not obtained under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and there was no prior recommendation of the Standing Committee of National Board for wildlife (SC-NBWL) under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the petitioner stated that the proposed project is not just an amalgamation of the existing Major District Roads (MDR), State Highways (SH) and National Highways (NH), as is sought to be projected, but also includes the construction of an entirely new Railway Over Bridges (ROB), Railway Under bridges (RUB), grade separators and an elevated corridor.
The project threatens to cause widespread destruction and environmental degradation within Bengaluru. The State Government issued a Gazette Notification in May 2019 under Section 15 of the Karnataka Highways Act, 1964, notifying the affected people about land acquisition, the petitioners said, pointing out that this project entails felling of approximately 8,561 trees within Bengaluru and surrounding areas.
Felling of trees will impact carbon sequestration and create urban heat zones, accelerating the deleterious effects of global warming and climate change within the region. The proposed project will have an impact on approximately 14 freshwater lakes located in and around Bengaluru, the petitioners alleged.
The petitioners sought directions to the Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited to stop the project and to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to initiate action against the corporation for not obtaining clearance before taking up the project.