Bhopal: The clamour against the proposed construction of an MLA rest house in Bhopal is growing as it would require felling of hundreds of trees on lush green Arera Hills in the Madhya Pradesh capital.
The assembly secretariat had recently approved construction of the new MLA rest house for the lawmakers, which is expected to come up on the Arera Hills adjoining the Madhya Pradesh Assembly complex.
The project, which has already seen the felling of around 1,150 trees, may result in cutting down of several hundred more. Some of the trees at Arera Hills are nearly 50 to 70 years old.
The project is under public glare, especially since the city known for it’s greenery has lost thousands of trees due to various projects including – Narmada water supply, development of a Central Business District in New Market area, Smart City project which comes up in TT Nagara area, which houses thousands of trees, and the under-construction Metro rail project.
After voices of dissent rose from different quarters over the MLA rest house project, some social workers have come forward to shape up this anguish on large scale.
We have launched an agitation and it would be run through Satyagraha and non-violent means, said Sharad Singh Kumre, of Paryavaran Bachao Andolan. Projects like Smart City, Metrol Rail and others are wiping out greenery from Bhopal and we won’t let Bhopal turn into Delhi, where locals are now forced to buy oxygen to breath in fresh air, he added.
Saying that the forum would generate awareness on the destruction of greenery, Kumre added that they have already forwarded the complaints to Pollution Control Board, EPCO, municipal corporation, Union Ministry of Environment and Forest, Chief Minister of MP, Assembly Speaker and others.
The senior volunteer questioned that when 90 MLAs had shifted to Chhattisgarh after bifurcation of the state, then why the assembly secretariat was planning new rest house for legislators. “Some MLAs get bungalows after becoming ministers and some are offered accommodation in the capacity of officebearers of boards and corporation,” he added.
The forum contested that Arera Hills is crucial to keeping environmental balance in Bhopal, which while acting as the City Forest is necessary for generation of oxygen in huge quantities for the city. The volunteers claimed that the National Green Tribunal in the past had offered conditional approval to the project but the conditions are not adhered to.
Another forum member Yogesh Sahu claimed that mindless destruction of green cover might leave Bhopal in Delhi like situation where people are finding it hard to breathe.
Large numbers of aware citizens are already opposing the project on social media platforms and some protests have also been staged in the recent past.
To add, the project was proposed during the BJP government as well but was rolled back after facing public ire.
Commenting on the contentious project, environment activist Subhas C Pandey told News18 that in 2013 the NGT had taken cognizance of the project and later offered conditional approval and those riders put by the NGT are yet to be fulfilled. Its an unrequired project imposed on the city, said Pandey adding that destruction of trees could lead to massive soil erosion on such a high hillock and does not augur well for the city.
Destruction of green cover could wipe out city’s name from the India’s map altogether, he added saying the trees are targeted in every single project as they have no voice of their own.
Former DGP and the member of Bhopal Citizens’ Forum Arun Gurtoo too claimed that the project was erroneous on many counts. First, it destroys the green cover and also threatens the security of assembly as residences of MLAs see all kinds of people visiting them. “Thirdly, when you have an alternate place (old rest house), why waste public money and kill greenery.”
The Forum has written to the Assembly Speaker for reviewing the project and is reaching out to MLAs to convince them to raise a voice against the project.
Those in power should act as leaders guiding us on the environmental hazards and it should not be the other way round, said the ex-top cop. At a time, when the world is concerned on environmental degradation, we should find ways to protect greenery, not methods to wipe it out, he added.
Former assembly speaker, who was reached on this matter, also requested a review on the project.
Our government had rolled back the project after public anguish was visible and then the Chief Minister (Shivraj Singh Chouhan) intervened, said former assembly speaker Sitasaran Sharma.
When the whole country is concerned over environment, such a project does not seem proper and I request the incumbent speaker to review the project, said Sharma, a senior BJP senior MLA.
To add, the project is being envisaged despite several housing facilities being in existence for the MLAs, including MLA quarters built in the past in Jawahar Chowk, Depot area, Rivera Town and an under-construction multi-storied housing complex coming up for public representatives in Gautam Nagar area.