Save trees while you upgrade Vet Hospital: Citizens to Govt

VETERINARY HOSPITAL UPGRADATION CONTROVERSY

The landmark Queens Veterinary Hospital, located at the heart of Bengaluru, is getting razed down. The NGO Sarvodaya that handles street animal sterilisation, which was also housed there has been told to move out. Power was cut on Monday and without an alternate space yet, doctors in Sarvodaya are performing surgeries under candlelight.

Doctors in Sarvodaya animal centre performing surgery on a dog in the candle light, as the power was disconnected.

A group of concerned citizens under the umbrella Knights For Queens (KFQ) are campaigning against this move. On Wednesday a candlelight vigil was held to protest against loss of this heritage campus and its tree cover, and more than a hundred citizens showed up in the rain to show their concern.

Loss of heritage

The building, built in 1908 during the time of British Collector FR Richards, a former British barrack is a heritage structure. Around three acres of this campus is owned by Department of Animal Husbandry. The buildings are owned by BBMP.

The buildings were occupied by the Veterinary Hospital, Animal husbandry Department. One set of corner buildings has been occupied by Sarvodaya, one of the only two Animal Birth Control and Sterilization (ABC) centers in Bengaluru, from 2012.

A building has already been razed. Pic: Priya Chetty Rajgopal

Reports say that the Animal Husbandry Department plans to build a 17 crore multi-storey multi-specialty animal hospital for livestock and pets, at the location.

But, Bengaluru already has a large veterinary college and hospital in the sprawling GKVK campus, at Hebbal barely 4 kms away from this location. It has a larger tract of land that will better serve the purposes, provides better access, has more contiguous facilities, proximate skill sets, and therefore more efficient with reduced redundancy of admin and logistics required. In addition, handling livestock in the centre of the city, that too in a high rise building, seems a little illogical and far-fetched.

ABC programme impacted

This will also require the moving of Sarvodaya, the only other Animal Birth Control (ABC) And Anti Rabies Aviation (ARV) NGO other than CUPA in the city. This will make catering to the sterilization demand in the center and east of the city even more difficult.

Dogs operated recently. Pic: Priya Chetty Rajgopal

Many Resident Welfare Associations in the nearby areas are objecting to the state government’s plan. Several RTIs have been filed asking for the details of plans, exact number of trees to be cut etc. Requests for master plan and DPR from BBMP and Animal Husbandry not responded to as yet.

Many trees to be cut

It looks like the project would need felling of many trees. A tree mapping immediately done by concerned citizens identified 92 trees of various heights and girths listed in the triangular property identified for demolition and reconstruction. The Veterinary Hospital has reportedly made a request to BBMP to cut four trees, but the tender for demolition plan shows nearly 56 trees, according to the residents.

The age, girth and magnificence of the trees makes this a valued green area, which is just one of the few green lung spaces left in the city. Residents argue that the area could be considered a ‘Deemed Forest’ as it is over 25 trees, and therefore should be protected. Environmental impacts of cutting 56 trees is still unknown.The logistics and suitability of such a structure in a central business district area have not been thought through, as the small road and the one-way traffic will find cattle trucks etc quite difficult to manage.

In the unlikely event of a new building required, the architectural design by the contractor, Karnataka Housing Board, should incorporate the trees, in a courtyard style, given the triangular property and that animals will require some open land, say the residents.

The residents are questioning the lack of public consultation and involvement in the decision.

Demolished barracks. Pic: Priya Chetty Rajgopal

Citizens demand the government to involve public

In a petition addressed to the Chief Secretary of Karnataka, the Knights for Queen group has requested that in the interests of the city and environment be put on priority and this stopped at the earliest. Residents have also requested to not cut any trees without prior notice.

The demands are as follows:

1) The new structure should be designed around the trees. Not a single tree should be touched.

2) The new structure should have a suitable elevation and strong local influence keeping up with the history and heritage of the place. Bangalore can and should take the lead in combining aesthetics with functionality.

3) Transparency is essential. Master plan of the project and other relevant details should be share. They should be vetted by an independent panel architects / specialists who will make recommendations. People dealing in the public domain or in a public consultation about the specialisation, animal focus and range would help the public to understand and support the project better.

A committee can be set up with respected architects, environmentalists and other specialists who will closely work with BBMP on a project-project basis. This committee will ensure that the city’s existing tree and heritage cover is preserved.

5) The animal welfare NGO Sarvodaya should not be disturbed and should continue to be housed in the same complex-centrally located to cater to Bengaluru’s animal population and is strengthened with kennels, additional ambulance for pick up and for mobile surgeries.

6) Last but not the least animal husbandry should update their website immediately. It has three-year-old data and doesn’t inspire confidence.

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