“Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish been caught, and the last stream poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money.” – Cree Indian Prophecy
A year back, when I took my older twin daughter for the third visit to the doctor for a complaint of running nose and watery eyes, the doctor asked me some intriguing questions.
“Where do you live?”
“I live nearby the junction on the main road opposite the flyover.”
“Ahhh, she might have developed dust allergy. Is it possible to shift your house to the interior locality?”
“Sir, not immediately for sure.”
“Usually, the pollution levels are higher near the main roads, if you cannot afford to shift your house do buy an air purifier and install in the room where your kids spend most of the time.”
I felt helpless as well as angry on that day. Air Pollution has already started affecting my children, who are three years old now. Like my children, lakhs of people are suffering from the impacts of air pollution. As per the scientific paper titled ‘Health and economic impact of air pollution in the States of India: The Global Burden of Disease Study 2019’, 1.7 million deaths in India were attributable to air pollution in 2019, which was 18% of the total deaths in the country.
Yet, it seems like, in general, our government approach towards the development of our country is GDP and economy-oriented, which means business, jobs, earnings and profits. By the way, the same report highlighted “while the economic loss due to the lost output from premature deaths and morbidity from air pollution was 1.4% of the GDP in India during this time, which is equivalent to ₹260,000 crore ($36.8 billion).”
KBR national park is a park spread in the area of 142.50 hectares in the centre of the city. It has more than 600 species of plants, along with mammals, reptiles, birds and butterflies. It is a common sight to see beautiful peacocks on the walkway of the park.
Hundreds of walkers visit the park every day to exercise, catch some fresh air and to find peace and serenity in the green. KBR park is a carbon sink for the city supplying oxygen and purifying the air around. With the city’s rapid expansion, KBR national park is also among the last few precious remaining green spaces.
Things were all fine until the government of Telangana planned the Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP) in the city. The project proposed six flyovers be passed around KBR national park to ease traffic jams on the way to Hitech city the IT hub of Hyderabad. To construct the flyovers, a notification is issued to shrink eco-sensitive zones around the park.
ESZ acts as the “shock absorber” between a highly protected area and regulates human activities. What remains a mystery is no one in the city know when did the mandatory public hearing take place? If so, where are the records of it? Yet the plan received approval from Environment Ministry.
What it means, in reality, is a death warrant to 1300 trees amidst intensifying climate crisis. Not just trees, it will put animals & birds like peacocks at threat. Acquiring land from the park will disturb the natural water flow, thus making the surrounding area prone to flooding and reducing groundwater recharge. Once the buffer zone is reduced, and with added vehicular traffic, the pollution levels will only increase.
Talking about pollution, in November 2020, Hyderabad only witnessed a single day where the city’s air quality matched the prescribed PM 2.5 WHO standard. I think flyovers are a false solution and are not sustainable. In the last two decades, massive road widening took place, and the government built dozens of flyovers in the city.
In doing so, numerous trees were cut-down, and thousands of people lost their livelihood. Yet the city is unable to cope with the traffic problem today. However, the air pollution problem grew in the city, and Hyderabad is a non-attainment city where pollution levels are regularly high.
The current flyovers mentality is only encouraging more private vehicles on roads. Hyderabad adds 1000 two-wheelers and 230 four-wheelers every day. Flyover gives you ease at one junction, but what about the next junction followed by many more junctions till you reach your destination.
Wish our public representatives had farsightedness and had built a smart network of public transportation systems, making it safe and accessible for all. We could have retained the cycling culture and invested in last-mile connectivity.
Have you ever read the quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens, can change the world? Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
To save the KBR national park, ordinary people from all walks of life initiated a citizens’ movement. The movement aims to preserve the park and the last remaining green spaces and challenge the current narrow mindset of development & initiate a debate around sustainability and future of the city.
The fight seems to be that of David and Goliath but worth fighting. An inspirational story to tell to the children that we stood for our mother Earth at the time of crisis.
Join the movement to SaveKBR and sign the petition!