The Supreme Court dismissed a PIL filed by Benglaluru citizen-activist BP Mahesh and others seeking a stay on the construction of the Shivananda Steel Flyover on Monday. Declining to intervene in the matter, the First Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, however, directed the Karnataka High Court to decide the case at the earliest, while taking into account the concerns by residents over the design of the flyover.
Senior advocate Sajan Poovayya, representing the petitioners, pointed out that poor planning by the BBMP in the past has led to traffic signals even in flyovers. However, senior advocate Shyam Divan, counsel for the state government, claimed that the flyover was a necessity.
It was then that the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra said, “How far can we go into it? You are saying one thing, he is saying another. It is appropriate to let the HC decide on the matter.”
Mahesh and other citizen activists had approached the Supreme Court after the Karnataka High Court failed to grant an interim stay on the construction of the Shivananda Steel Flyover.
With the Supreme Court declining to put an interim stay on the much-opposed Shivananda Steel Flyover project in Bengaluru, citizen-activists remain hopeful that the Karnataka High Court will settle the matter in their favour quickly.
The 326-metre steel bridge intended to ease the traffic gridlock at Shivananda Circle to Race Course road has faced stiff opposition on the grounds of engineering and environmental costs.
After negative responses from the concerned authorities, multiple citizens and resident groups first approached the Karnataka HC with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that demanded a stay on the construction. However, while admitting the plea, the High Court refused to grant an interim stay on the flyover in January, forcing the petitioners to then approach the apex court.
“The battle begins now. This is not a setback, there is 100% hope. The case has to be heard on a day-to-day basis within a period of two-three months by the High Court,” said BP Mahesh, a petitioner who responded to the SC's decision.
Meanwhile, the BBMP has already begun work on the flyover by taking note of the SC order. The palike claims that it will finish the project in a year's time.
Another petitioner, Dr Nalini Krishnan echoed Mahesh’s view, “The SC has actually directed the HC to take a call quickly. This is certainly a positive. What the BBMP is doing is nothing new. The citizens are the real stakeholders, this is our Bengaluru but our voice is falling on deaf ears. The BBMP is also keeping silent on trees being felled,” said Dr Nalini.
The residents also argue that the Shivananda Steel Flyover will only worsen the traffic congestion in the area, which questions the actual motive of the construction.
“We just needed to widen the road beneath the railway underbridge which can be done with minimum land acquisition. Considering the metro nearby at Mantri Mall, the traffic situation is not that bad. It is only the ongoing construction work which is making it worse,” points out Dr Nalini.
The activists also claim that the flyover will have a steep descent ahead of the railway underpass, which can be a hazard and is technically impractical. Many experts also pointed out that the construction was incoherent with guidelines of the Indian Road Congress.
“This flyover may be effective for around six months, given the rate of private vehicle ownership. Our focus should be on sustainability. Stress should be on mobility instead of infrastructure. We have to make amends before it becomes as bad as Delhi’s traffic,” Ashish Verma, a sustainable transportation expert at the Indian Institute of Science had said .
As earlier reported, the reason for opposing the steel bridge by residents and urban mobility experts are similar to the massive anti-steel flyover (Steel Flyover Beda) protests on Ballari Road leading to the Kempegowda International airport.
Many experts have pointed out that the solution to Bengaluru’s traffic snarls does not lie in increasing infrastructure but by stressing on increased mobility.
Another urban mobility expert, Sanjeev Dymanavar, said, “Even when you are building a flyover, you have to consider a long-term solution. There is a high possibility of traffic jams developing at the end of the flyover.”