Bengaluru’s ‘biggest water tower’ faces threat of losing tree cover
BENGALURU: With the State Government deciding to develop the heritage structure, Balabrooie Guest House, into a Constitution Club for legislators, experts have raised concerns over axing of century-old trees. Assembly Speaker Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri said the proposed structure will be similar to the Constitution Club of India, in New Delhi, and will be taken up without making major changes to the heritage building. Environmentalists and heritage enthusiasts, however, said even if no major changes are made to the building, the authorities will end up cutting trees to provide parking and other facilities on the campus.
The state government has given the go-ahead for the revival of the Constitution Club in Bengaluru, which will serve as a platform for legislators and parliamentarians to relax, rejuvenate and debate issues. Pointing out that there are clubs for IAS officers, Press Club and others, Kageri said, “Without disturbing the environs and keeping the building intact, we will take up the work.’’ The iconic building was constructed in 1850s on a 14-acre campus. Mark Cubbon, the longest-serving commissioner of the then Mysuru state, wanted to build a structure that resembled those in his hometown on an island in the Irish Sea. According to environmentalists, there are over 150 varieties of trees that are more than 100 years.
Noted environmentalist A N Yellappa Reddy said Balabrooie Guest House is “biggest water tower” in Bengaluru because of its altitude and massive root system of trees that can absorb huge quantity of rain water. The century-old trees have roots spread across 40 feet. The location was chosen to construct the building because of the altitude and gets at least 50 mm of rainfall in one hour more than 10 times in a year. The area has a capacity to absorb at least 14 million litres of water. Any new construction or cutting of trees will disturb the whole system and rainwater will come on to roads and cause flooding,’’ he added. Environmentalists also point out there are eight traffic signals in the vicinity which witness heavy traffic. The large number of trees on the Balabrooie campus act as oxygen bank and also absorb noise pollution, they said.
A heritage enthusiast felt that instead of converting Balabrooie into a legislators’ club, the government can build it on open land elsewhere. “The heritage building has seen dignitaries like Sir M Visvesvaraya, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru and others. In fact, the first few Chief Ministers of Mysuru State — K C Reddy, B D Jatti, S Nijalingappa, D Devaraj Urs — had made it their official residence. Even S R Bommai had stayed there for while when he was CM. But, after he lost power, other CMs did not prefer this place. If it is converted into a club, hundreds of cars will come and trees will be chopped to provide parking space,’’ he said.