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Hebbal-Nagawara valley project: Over 6,000 trees face the axe

A notification, published on June 14, has invited objections

Why destroy an ecosystem to create a new one? Anger is brewing among citizens and environmentalists over the Minor Irrigation Department’s proposal to clear over 6,000 trees in Singanayakanahalli to make way for a lake under the Hebbal-Nagawara Valley Project.

According to a recent notification by the Forest Department, 6,316 trees have been proposed to be felled to make way for the development of Singanayakanahalli lake, Yelahanka hobli, as they are in the way of the project. The notification, published on June 14, has invited objections via email or post within 10 days from its publication.

The Hebbal-Nagawara Valley Project aims to fill 65 tanks in Bengaluru Urban, Rural and Chickballapur. Last February, Bagaluru lake became the first to receive treated water from the project and meant to act as an impounded reservoir to supply water to 11 other lakes in the region. Though direct use of treated water for drinking and agricultural purposes has been prohibited, farmers in the area were largely optimistic of the project pushing up the water table.

However, citizen activists are questioning the logic behind removing such a huge number of trees. Environmentalist Vijay Nishanth said the area is known to be a peacock habitat, and asked why those many trees had to be axed to develop a lake.

“Ironically, only earlier this month did we celebrate World Environment Day with aplomb,” said V. Ramprasad, co-founder and convenor of Friends of Lakes. “Won’t clearing over 6,000 trees for lake development have a negative effect? There are so many different species of trees. There is a thriving peacock ecosystem. There are ways to restore a lake with the existing ecosystem ecologically and environmentally restore the lake as per High Court of Karnataka order. We need to start re-imagining lake development ecologically and environmentally. It is not a swimming pool or a walking track. It is not something that should benefit only humans,” he said.

Volunteers from Eco Champ, a citizens’ group involved in environment issues, alleged that many trees have already been axed. “When we want to plant new trees, there are so many considerations – utility lines, road cutting, etc. But here, instead of thinking about planting new trees, they are hell-bent on destroying existing ones. Even if they promise replacement, how long will those saplings take to grow into trees?” asked a volunteer, adding that they would mobilise objections against the proposal.

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