The Karnataka government’s plan to revive the controversial steel flyover project costing almost Rs 2,000 crore and 2,000 trees in Bengaluru is facing a roadblock. The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday noted the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) cannot go ahead with the controversial steel flyover project without receiving the mandatory environmental clearance from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority— Karnataka.
This means the 7-km long steel flyover project between Esteem Mall in Hebbal to Chalukya Circle in Bengaluru is likely to fail the legal scrutiny, according to activists.
Leo Saldanha, an expert in environmental law and co-ordinator of the Environment Support Group (ESG), said, “Our stand is at this point there is no project. As for a proposal to be a ‘project,’ there has to be land use clearance first which itself has go through four stages of public consultation process as mentioned in the Karnataka Town Planning Act.”
The same has been stated by the Karnataka High Court order in a case filed by ESG against the Bangalore Metro authorities in 2009.
“So even if the Chief Minister puts together the plan, it does not make it legal as it is in contravention of the law,” he added.
Karnataka’s Advocate General Udaya Holla informed the court that the BDA hasn't applied for environmental clearance yet.
Wednesday’s observation was made by the Karnataka HC based on the National Green Tribunal order. The court was hearing a writ petition filed by the Namma Bengaluru Foundation in November 2016. NBF had approached the court after the BDA allegedly did not answer Right to Information applications on the project. The next hearing will be held in June 2019.
Incidentally, a coalition of civic activist groups— Citizens for Bengaluru, Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike, CIVIC, Environment Support Group and Bangalore Environment Trust had recently approached the Member-Secretary of State-Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority – Karnataka.
In their letter they pointed out that an environmental clearance can’t be given to the project as it is in violation of Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act and various Karnataka High Court orders.
The proposal was shelved by the Siddaramaiah government after sustained protests, and various cases filed by activists at the Karnataka High Court and National Green Tribunal.
An 8,000-person human chain protested along the route of the proposed flyover from Chalukya Circle to Esteem Mall held in February 2016. Those opposed to the project had argued that the elevated corridor would be futile in attempting to ease congestion, especially at the cost of Rs 1,800 crore and 2,000 trees. A study by urban mobility expert and IISc professor Ashish Verma has predicted that at the current rate of private vehicle ownership, the steel flyover would likely be congested on the first day itself.
The project came to prominence once again after Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, who holds the Bengaluru Development portfolio, announced that the government will “relook” into the project on January 1 as a measure to ease traffic congestion. Support also came from his ministerial colleague and Water Resources Minister DK Shivakumar who accused the BJP of opposing the project only for political gain.