Zero foodgrain production to tree felling: Hyderabad citizen sends SOS to PM; calls for halting Greenfield Expressway work

Regional Ring Road for Hyderabad is proposed with an approximate length of 338 kilometers and at a distance of 50 Km from Hyderabad. This greenfield (new) expressway will be another ring road, in addition to the existing Outer Ring Road (ORR) of 158 Km.

By Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi  Published on  29 Nov 2022 5:28 AM GMT
Zero foodgrain production to tree felling:  Hyderabad citizen sends SOS to PM; calls for halting Greenfield Expressway work

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To

Prime Minister of India

New Delhi

Sub: Withdraw plans to build Regional Ring Road around Hyderabad, in Telangana

Ref: Development of Greenfield Regional Expressway on the Northern side of Hyderabad under Bharatmala Pariyojana

1. Gazette Notification S. O. 3990(E), dated 24th August, 2022, in Narsapur (Medak dist)

2. Gazette Notification S. O. 3986(E), dated 23th August, 2022, in the district of Sangareddy

3. Gazette Notification S. O. 3993(E), dated 23th August 2022, in the Gajwel (Siddipet district)

4. Gazette Notification S. O. 1872(E), dated 19th April 2022, in the Choutuppal (Yadadari Bhuvanagiri district)

5. Gazette Notification S. O. 1474(E), dated 30th March, 2022, in Yadadari Bhuvanagiri district

Dear Sir,

Regional Ring Road for Hyderabad is proposed with an approximate length of 338 kilometers and at a distance of 50 Km from Hyderabad. This greenfield (new) expressway will be another ring road, in addition to the existing Outer Ring Road (ORR) of 158 Km. Thus, Hyderabad will have two ring roads, which is probably unique to any metro city in India. Both the roads fall under the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Area (HMDA) of 7,257 Sq.Km. Both the roads do not figure in the Master Plans, indicating Adhoc plans and non-seriousness in the scientific assessment of its requirement. Not enough evidence or argument has been built for this RRR within a decade of the completion of the ORR. With ORR yet to be used fully, the need for another ring road, within a distance of 25 Km, is unnecessary and unjustified.

The proposed regional ring road expressway around Hyderabad is set to affect fertile agricultural lands and densely populated villages filled with structures and houses. Precious agricultural land will be lost to the project, which has minimal gains for the local populace. Road alignment is always subject to pressures from the real estate lobby and the powerful elite, invariably impacting the poor and the voiceless.

In the past, Outer Ring Road has undergone several changes in its alignment, ultimately burdening the public exchequer, environment, and poor people. Frequent changes in ORR alignment, owing to the dictates of the powerful elite, have done irreversible damage impacting water resources, water bodies, and the local natural water cycle. A number of hillocks have vanished, while a few were sliced open to allow the ORR alignment. Natural streams were destroyed. Mrugavani and other natural forests were also impacted negatively. An audit of ORR is required to understand how these impacts could have been avoided.

Just like ORR, the Regional Ring Road expressway is mostly to be designed to exclude the local population from using it. Usually elevated, expressways are designed to exclude many types of road users and slow vehicles. Expressways have become a death trap for pedestrians as the road design lacks footpaths, crossroads, cycle lanes, street lamps, medians, overhead bridges, traffic lamps, and dividers. Rural folk, living on either side of the proposed RRR, who use different modes and methods of transport, including livestock, would be several affected. Livestock grazing areas are either divided or encroached, thus, effectively killing livestock-based livelihoods, including sheep, goats, buffaloes, cows, and poultry.

Without committed efforts to safeguard the environment from the Telangana government and national government, RRR will increase the pressure on the State's land, forests, water systems, wetlands, grassland ecosystems, and other natural resources--assets many of the poor depend on for their livelihoods. Livelihood loss can increase poverty, unemployment, and nature-based production and can have a cascading effect on Gross State Domestic Product. Telangana's GDP, and thus national GDP, is at risk because of these huge road projects, whose benefits have not been assessed scientifically so far. On the other hand, air pollution is likely to increase in the area as land and soil are disturbed. Food production within a 150 km radius area would reduce gradually to zero, with consequences on hunger, nutrition, and future generation growth.

The project does not help in developing and diversification of the economic opportunities in surrounding districts and mandals, since RRR is not about improving transport facilities and services in rural areas. It does not enhance employment and income-generating opportunities for the local people and does not create inter-district trade routes. The design of the RRR project is not inclusive and will affect the economic growth prospects of the local people, especially the poor and women. Even the unskilled employment generated during this road project implementation does not help local people, as most migrants are employed.




ORR and the widening of other roads connecting Hyderabad have led to the removal of lakhs of trees, the flattening of hillocks as they contributed to soil and rock metal for road construction, and the destruction of natural streams and local aquifers. RRR is likely to cause a similar impact multiple times as what has happened due to ORR.

Regional Ring Road will increase the overall appeal of the real estate sector in this area, especially the projects between ORR and RRR. This road accelerates urbanization, concretization, natural resource transfer from the poor to the rich, and land ownership consolidation. Urban design, especially zonal regulations, needs to be reviewed in this context. Since almost all of the RRR project falls under the HMDA Master Plan area, the Master Plan of the HMDA area requires review and appropriate integration of zonal development plans.

Telangana government does not have a comprehensive approach towards its transport sector in improving its institutional, financial, and operational efficiency to maintain sufficient transport infrastructure (including State roads, national highways, and expressways) and to improve road safety.

A detailed project report has not been shared in the public domain. Only bits and pieces of information are shared in the newspapers, without giving a comprehensive view of the project. The government of Telangana has so far not clarified whether it is planning to acquire additional land around the proposed RRR, from the transport corridor. The NHAI notification does not give specific names of persons along with land survey numbers. Alignment maps should have been shared with the panchayats, which are affected, directly or indirectly.

We request you stop all activities related to the Regional Ring Road expressway until the following is done:

1. Detailed project Report is developed and shared in the public domain. Provisions requiring environmental permits and forest clearances—and at least 80% of site availability at commencement — have to be focused upon. DPR can identify potential environmental impacts and risks of this project.

2. Environmental Impact Assessment has been done and shared with the people. This Assessment can examine the social and environmental consequences of the RRR Expressway project prior to execution. It can provide information to decision-makers and the public about the environmental implications of proposed actions before decisions are made.

3. Comprehensive relief and rehabilitation policy and plan have been developed by the Telangana government, with regard to land acquisition in general and in the case of RRR, in particular. This policy should enable and accelerate financing for activities that utilize nature-centric solutions, green infrastructure, and other approaches that restore and enhance natural resources and ecosystems. Experience in Telangana in the recent past shows that involuntary resettlement can give rise to severe economic, social, and environmental risks, and result in long-term hardship and impoverishment of affected people. A policy, which incorporates safeguards, has to call for meaningful consultation with affected people; facilitate mechanisms of compensation of losses and provision of assistance to and benefit sharing with displaced families, and special measures for the poor and vulnerable. This policy and concomitant measures require the preparation, implementation, and monitoring of time-bound resettlement plans.

4. Government should aim to avoid involuntary resettlement wherever possible. It should strive to minimize involuntary resettlement by exploring alternatives to the project and project design. Government has the responsibility to enhance, or at least restore, the livelihoods of all displaced persons in real terms relative to pre-project levels. Relief and rehabilitation should be designed to improve the standards of living of the displaced poor and other vulnerable groups.

5. Land Acquisition Act, 2013, should be applied whenever land acquisition is being made. And, not the State Act of Land acquisition, 2017, which is discriminatory, limited, and noncomprehensive. Land registration rates have to be revised based on established laws and procedures. Land acquisition, if at all, has to be based on these two conditions: applicability of central law and revision of land registered values to reflect market rates.

6. Environment Mitigation Plan is developed with sufficient funds allocated and an institutional accountability hierarchy is defined. This can prescribe the environmental management strategy to be implemented by the project developers. Compensatory afforestation is only a one-dimensional approach that has failed to mitigate road project impacts on the environment, ecology, watershed, and catchment areas of water bodies.

7. Telangana government needs to devise a streamlined decision-making procedure, with each step having a defined transparent timeline and content so as not to permit exploitation of the poor, and clearly established measures for reaching consensus among stakeholders.

8. RRR requires a specific, visible, and accessible grievance redressal mechanism. The union government and the Telangana government need to establish such a mechanism.

9. To ensure the environmental soundness and sustainability of this RRR project (as also other road projects), environmental safeguards have to be developed. Environmental considerations have to be integrated into the project decision-making process.

While the RRR is not required under the current conditions and circumstances, we request the government not go ahead without fulfilling the above steps.

With best regards and looking forward to your positive response.

Yours Truly,

Dr. Narasimha Reddy Donthi


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