HYDERABAD: Decks have finally been cleared for the construction flyovers with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest clearing the proposal to reduce the width of the walkway around the KBR National Park in Hyderabad, which forms part of the Eco Sensitive Zone.
At present, the width of the walkway at some places is 25 metres and at others 35 metres. Now, the State government could reduce the width to three metres and 29 metres, covering an area of 0.0582 square kilometres.
The notification was published this month on November 2. When the State sent the proposal for reducing the width of the walkway, an Expert Committee of the Union Ministry of Environment asked it to conduct a public hearing over the draft notification and submit a detailed report before taking any decision.
After this, as Express has found out, in August, the Forest Department of Telangana informed MoEF in the ESZ Expert Committee meeting, that public hearing has been conducted but it cannot provide a report on it immediately “due to the pandemic situation”.
As per the meeting’s minutes, "public hearing for the proposed ESZ was conducted and the requisite information is delayed due to pandemic situation". Based on this and other declarations, the MoEF expert panel granted the approval to publish final notification.
When The New Indian Express asked top officials of the State Forest Department, including the officer who was present at ESZ Expert Committee meeting, as to when the public hearing was conducted, they acted cagey and evaded the question.
Telangana exempted from holding hearing
They directed Express to ask a senior official working as Officer on Special Duty in the Forest Department. The retired official said that due to the pandemic situation, MoEF exempted the Forest Department from conducting public hearing.
As reported by this newspaper, MoEF had asked the Forest Department to conduct a public hearing in March, 2019. In 2015, the proposal was to have the ESZ around KBR National Park at 25m to 35m from its boundary.
However, in 2018 the Forest Department decreased it to 3m to 29.8m to accommodate flyovers at six junctions around the National Park as per Telangana government's Strategic Road Development Programme, which requires removal of around 1,394 trees.
Many from the city protested this move, claiming that this will affect the ecosystem of the park which acts as a lung space for Hyderabad and submitted objections to MoEF after publication of draft notification of ESZ in 2018. In March, 2019 MoEF directed the Telangana Forest Department to conduct a public hearing.