With the Lok Sabha elections just a little more than two weeks away, the contentious issue of the state government’s proposed elevated corridor across the length and breadth of Bengaluru, remains a subject of hot discussion among the citizenry.
While hundreds of city residents took to the streets on March 16 demanding the cancellation of a hurriedly called tender by the state government for the first phase of the project, there are some who speak in favour of the project.
To further delve into the matter from a perspective closer home, citizen activist group—Bellandur Jothege organised a ‘Viewing Elevated Corridors through the Southern Suburbs Lens--a Mobility Debate' on Sunday.
The panel comprised familiar faces on both sides with the likes of RK Mishra, a long-time proponent of the project alongside Clement Jaykumar, Pratik Ghosh and Nitin Seshadri. On the opposing side were Srinivas Alavalili, Radha Chanchani. Nagesh Aras and Narendra Kumar.
‘Need of the hour’
Speaking in favour of the project, panellists argued that Bengaluru being a city which is witnessing continuous growth will need to increase road space and going vertical was the only way forward. This, as it minimises delays incurred due to land acquisition, in addition to increased reach and scope of the metro, suburban railway and the bus. The proponents also claimed that the elevated corridor will also feature dedicated bus lanes which will make travel from one end of the city to the other faster even for bus users. They even suggested addition of metro tracks in the proposed elevated corridor.
Clement Jaykumar, a member of Doddanekundi Rising, said, “The average speed in peak times is around 5-8km/hr today. The pollution level will drop five times if the speed is increased to 30km/hr which will be possible once the elevated corridor is ready. Outer Ring Road (ORR) is getting polluted due to slow speeds, and residents on both sides of the ORR will benefit from the elevated corridor. This will help us reduce pollution and also increase our options of travelling along with the metro and Peripheral Ring Road.”
RK Mishra, a serial entrepreneur and one of the promoters of the idea suggested that instead of opposing the government on this issue, those on the other side should ask the government for their set of alternate solutions.
“I humbly request people from the other side not to be emotional and idealistic. No doubt there is need for multimodal transport. Those on the opposing side have very little knowledge about how the government works. Don’t assume that if you oppose this, something else will happen. I would suggest please ask for more,” he said.
‘Enough for need, not for greed’
Those opposing the project contended that the elevated corridor, which is not part of the Master Plan or any comprehensive mobility plan, is illegal and won’t serve its intended purpose, being an ad hoc solution, especially at the cost of the environment as well as huge financial expense. Instead of existing bottlenecks, they argued that there will be newer ones if the project goes ahead. They advocated increased thrust on the suburban rail project which has been delayed for more than 30 years, and suggested expediting metro work and fine-tuning the bus routes which already carry almost 50% of the city’s population.
Srinivas Alavalli, co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) argued for prioritising on public transport as opposed to elevated corridors.
“Let’s first have more public transport. We need to stop this design of more cars. We need to learn from cities across the world, a simple Google search will tell us that flyovers are an outdated idea,” he said.
“In all the past years, CMs from the time of Deve Gowda to Yeddyurappa to Siddaramaiah, have not moved a single muscle for the suburban railway, in spite of one MP (late Ananth Kumar) fighting for the cause for the last 24 years. 33 years of demand of suburban rail has been met only now because of public pressure and citizen-led movements,” he added.
Along the same lines, Radha said, “This is the time for asking the right things. When we ask for the elevated corridor, we are asking for unsustainable mobility patterns for the coming years. If you would rather build people carrying capacity instead, you will have more and more people leaving their private vehicles and moving to buses and other forms of shared transport.”
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, she said, “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everybody’s greed. So I want to extend that and say that there is enough road space for everyone’s mobility needs but not for everyone’s mobility greed.”