Bengaluru citizens against tech hub's 6.2-km steel flyover project

Bengaluru’s citizens are up in arms against a 6.72-km steel flyover planned to ease traffic movement to the airport.

The project, approved by the  Karnataka cabinet early this week, will involve cutting 812 trees on the stretch that connects the city centre  Basaveshwara circle with Hebbal, a node that leads to an expressway to the Bengaluru airport.  Larsen & Toubro and Nagarjuna Ltd will jointly execute the Rs 1,791 crore project over 24 months.

“It is a blatant misuse of public money and it is illegal. The proposed project is not placed before the Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Committee and there is no public consultation held before preparing the detailed project report,” says prominent Bengaluru citizen and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar. “No environment impact study has been prepared and placed in the public domain for scrutiny,” he adds.

On Friday, the Karnataka High Court admitted a  public interest litigation against the project by Chandrasekhar’s Namma Bengaluru Foundation, but directed the flyover work to continue. Bengaluru, India’s fastest growing metro, lacks adequate public transport resulting in the bulk of its population, or one in two citizens, owning vehicles. Vehicles in more than half of the corridors in Bengaluru drive at speeds of less than 25 kmph. The city, home to over 11 million people, had 6.42 million vehicles in July, according to statistics on Karnataka’s transport department site. In addition, the city also sees thousands of vehicles from neighbouring states on short trips.

There are far few public buses than required on Bengaluru’s roads; the Metro rail is still in its first phase carrying around 160,000 passengers a day; and a three-decade-old plan for a commuter rail system, the cheapest solution so far, has been shelved repeatedly.  A plan by liquor baron Vijay Mallya over two decades ago to set up an elevated light rail system was scrapped after it was found unviable by the state. There have been discussions on a monorail but it has never taken off.

Citizens have sought long-term integrated solutions to ease Bengaluru’s traffic mess than fixes such as the flyover.

“When traffic congestion is the biggest problem plaguing Bengaluru how does a VIP flyover for 1 per cent of users help ease congestion? How many years of construction will we really need to endure while a two-year claim is being made without a plan and sanction?” asks Naresh Narasimhan, a prominent Bengaluru architect who leads a collective, the  Citizens Against Steel Flyover.

The collective has asked for a suburban railway system using the existing rail network; a bigger bus fleet and reduced fares; and speedier completion of the Metro across the city.

TV Mohandas Pai, chairman of venture capital firm Aarin Capital, has an integrated plan to build elevated roads across the city. “The steel flyover as a standalone project will just create more traffic jams,” says Pai.

The Bangalore Development Authority, the agency tasked with implementing the steel flyover, says public comments were invited for the project, which is part of the larger North-South and East-West corridors, for which Rs 23,000 crore has been allocated.

“This is not a point-to-point flyover, there are many ramp ups and ramp downs, which will further ease traffic. This is part of the larger plan of the corridor between north-south and east-west for which Rs 23,000 crore has been allocated.  It is not a standalone project,” claims  Rajkumar Khatri, commissioner, Bangalore Development Authority.  “Yes, some trees will be cut, that will be inevitable. However, I have started a programme to plant 60,000 saplings. Against 812 trees being cut we will plant 60,000. A balance has to be reached between the two,” he adds.

UP IN ARMS

6.72-km steel flyover to ease traffic movement to the airport

Cost: Rs 1,791 crore
  • Government says  project will reduce traffic congestion; part of integrated Rs 20,000-crore flyovers plan

     
  • Citizens argument: Lacks transparency, no public discussion. City needs holistic plan, not band-aid fixes

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