The Green Meadows Housing Society in Bhopal’s Arera Hills area lies at the juncture of old and new city areas. It is flanked by the Central School complex on one side and by a large, open space on the rear. Earlier, this used to be a stud farm. The construction of the colony was completed by the Madhya Pradesh Housing Board in 2010. Planned well aesthetically, it has two rows of villas and four apartment complexes. In all, a total of 100 families call it their home.
The colony approach is marked by a barrier, both sides of which are lined by many-coloured bougainvillea shrubs. As you enter the row of villas on your left, you are struck by the greenery and landscaping, the frangipani and Saptaparni trees planted opposite houses and the general orderliness of neatly parked cars. If you are lucky, you will spot hawks, kites, pigeons, mynahs, hummingbirds and butterflies in the various trees and flowering creepers lining house walls and windows.
First-time visitors regularly comment on how beautiful it would all look during the rains.
Seemingly an idyllic place, the GMHS has been plagued by problems for the past 5 years and these problems are mainly to do with the open space which lies behind it (yes, the erstwhile stud farm) towards the locality of Jehangirabad. Some years earlier, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation wanted to construct an abattoir on that space. After strident protests by colony residents, that plan was dropped and everyone heaved a sigh of relief.
But this relief has proven to be shortlived because now a new conundrum stares GMHS residents in the face and this one seems more difficult to deal with.
Apparently, the MP Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MPMRCL) is planning to build its main depot on the open space behind the GMHS. After the construction of a retention wall was started and heavy-duty pre-construction machinery was moved there earlier this month, along with the numbering of over 700 trees which will be chopped down, GMHS residents are up in arms again.
As reported in the Times of India, Bhopal edition on April 26, 2022, MPMRCL sources said that land allotment and afforestation (for the project) has been approved as per requirements. An MPMRCL representative told TOI, “We have increased the space between the private colony and depot to 4 metres. Earlier, some proposed utilities planned towards the colony have also been changed to benefit the residential colony. Only a track will pass through the area and there will be limited window vision obstruction”.
However, this does not sit well with colony residents, who say that over 700 trees will be cut to make way for construction of the Metro depot there. This will not only deprive them of a clean, clear green space but also create a noisy environment in their backyard, making daily life difficult for dwellers. Pollution from vehicles proposed to be parked and serviced at the depot will also add to residents’ woes.
“All we are asking is for the Depot to be shifted a few metres away from the GMHS boundary wall. Due to this, not only will the colony be spared several ecological problems — like loose soil and barren land in place of old, verdant greenery, but the structural strength of apartment buildings and tenements adjacent to it will also not be compromised,” said D S Rai, a resident.
Although plagued by occasional thefts and robberies from the stud farm side, colony residents cherish the green cover it provides, along with the soothing sight of several hundred swaying, fragrant eucalyptus trees, a large open meadow and a recreational spot for old Bhopalis. During the summer, people take long walks here; in the rains, a much-awaited dirt-racing competition is held; in the winters and during spring, several children can be seen flying kites and playing cricket on the marshy land.
According to the TOI report quoted above, “The first phase of the Bhopal Metro is planned to be operational by the end of September 2023. It includes two lines with 28 station transit system. The main depot will also be the intersection point for Line-2 (Purple Line) which is from Karond Circle–AIIMS and Line-5 (Red Line), which will connect Bhadbhada Square to Ratnagiri Tiraha.”
On Monday evening, several GMHS residents staged a protest at the site of the proposed Metro depot. They raised slogans, carried and displayed banners and hugged trees earmarked for removal, in an attempt at protecting the vegetation around not just their own colony but also a green expanse in the middle of the city, which acts as the lungs of Bhopal.
In another attempt to prevent the destruction of several acres of greenery, GMHS residents are now planning to approach the National Green Tribunal (NGT) with their plea to stop deforestation of over 700 trees and prevent concretisation of this vast open swathe of land, which is the preferred hangout, recreation and workout spot for several thousand residents of surrounding areas.
“We will approach the NGT, although, to be honest, we don’t have much hope for succour from there. We are also planning to meet CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan to apprise him of the matter,” said Atul Bhargava, President, GMHS RWA.
(Disclaimer: The author is a resident of GMHS.)