Delayed by several years, will Bengaluru ever get the 'Namma Metro' it deserves?

Never-ending woes of Namma Metro II
Delayed by several years, will Bengaluru ever get the 'Namma Metro' it deserves?
Delayed by several years, will Bengaluru ever get the 'Namma Metro' it deserves?
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Way back, in January 2012, the Karnataka government had cleared the proposal for Phase 2 of the Bengaluru Namma Metro project. At a cost of Rs 27,000 crore, the 72-km project was to be completed by 2017. BMRCL managing director N Sivasailam had then said, “It should take about six months for the approval from the Centre. In the meantime, we will begin work on detailed design construction, call tenders and other basic preliminary projects.”

Four years later, and just a year ahead of its original date of completion, the project is way behind schedule, with even the final notification for land acquisition for phase II from Baiyappanahalli to Whitefield to be out only by March 2016. The delay in completion of the first phase has resulted in a knock-on effect with the second phase getting pushed back further.

In October 2015, the project, which was already in its eighth year, was already struggling to complete a 22.7 km-stretch of Phase I, mainly due to slow progress of the work, with the average rate of construction being around 2.5 km a year.  It was estimated then that given the slow pace of work, the completion of 42.3 km of Phase II would need more than 16 years - which means it would get finished only by 2032-33.

Pradeep Singh Kharola, Managing Director of BMRCL had said that the cost of phase-1 had gone up 19 per cent to Rs 13,800 crore as against the earlier estimates of Rs 11,609 crore due to the delays in the completion of civil works.

As far as phase II of Namma Metro is concerned, work is scheduled to start by March 2016 and is to be completed within three years. However, the main issue is with regard to land acquisition.

According to the Karnataka Government, the land acquisition has to take place in two phases – one from Baiyappanahalli to Vydehi Hospital and the other from the hospital to Whitefield mainstream. The Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) is looking into the acquisition of industrial property.

The board will decide the compensation to be paid to industries. The Metro would have to arrange for the share of its money to be deposited with the KIADB. After the Metro deposits the money, the KIADB would need to complete the land acquisition and disburse compensation.

According to a senior official, the basic work of utility shifting was yet to begin and trees would be felled later. “There have always been protests when it comes to tree-felling. We also need to convince civic activists that we will plant saplings and trees in other areas to compensate for the loss of trees along the Baiyappanahalli-Whitefield stretch. This will take some time.”

“There will be a dialogue and a public hearing on tree-cutting and road-widening. Only after these approvals come through will the demolition of houses and offices begin. There is a lot of work to be done prior to building the piers. It is not an easy process or something that can be done overnight. The public should understand that only after all these works will the actual work on the Metro begin,” the official added.

With such a huge stumbling block in the land acquisition process itself, the completion of the project could take much longer than the expected three-year period. 

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