Greenpeace India and Jhatka, along with more than a hundred residents and volunteers, turned up on Valentine’s Day for a passionate evening among the trees on Jayamahal Road in Bengaluru. The object of their affection you wonder? The 112 trees marked for felling by the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) to make way for road widening and the Steel Flyover proposed to connect Basaveshwara Circle and Hebbal.
The volunteers took to pink and white paint, sprucing up the trees with eco-messages to bring attention to the plight of the trees down the road. “Nanna Maraa” was painted over all of them, along with hearts, peace symbols and “Save me” messages.
We saw that “Nanna Maraa”, or “My Tree”, was even translated into various regional languages and painted on the trees. This is a sign that both old and new Bangaloreans, from students and artists to working professionals and homemakers, have taken on the responsibility of maintaining the city’s iconic green cover.
The 112 trees are just the first among the estimated 2200 that are to face the axe before they make way for the flyover. While almost everyone acknowledges that the flyover will help decongest the traffic, with more than 1000 vehicles added everyday to Karnataka, it is highly likely that this flyover too will be obsolete in the years to come.
The imperative question to consider now, is if a congestion-free five years is worth losing our old trees, our green cover and our lung-friendly air. Well, the volunteers certainly didn’t think so, they made the effort to come out of their homes, colleges and offices to show the city exactly what is close to their hearts.
While the government does mention the planting of three trees for every tree that will be cut down, these are mostly ornamental trees that cannot be equated with the native trees that are many decades old and part of the exotic tree cover that Bengaluru is proud of. Many of these trees are home to a large number of species of birds and of course the slender loris, which is already on the list of endangered species. Will these exotic creatures be forced to find a new home? And what assurance do they have that we will not cut down their next home?
Rather than focussing on flyovers as the only solution, improving public transport will ensure that people, rather than vehicles, move fast in a growing city. Trees are valued for the cool and comfortable microclimates, and pedestrian and cyclist friendly spaces they create.
The #NannaMaraa campaign is a message to the authorities to consult the public and analyse alternatives before chopping down the city’s natural heritage for flyovers that most urban planners consider to be just a temporary band-aid on that nasty sore called traffic.
Celia Moraes is a volunteer with Greenpeace India