Questions are being raised due to lack of information in the public domain and contradictions from the government's side.

Steel flyover in Bluru Did the govt mess it up by keeping some information under wraps
news Civic Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 08:05

There has been quite some noise over the steel flyover in Bengaluru what with its exorbitant cost and environmental implications. The BBMP and BDA on its part have said that they have nothing to hide, and will follow due procedure. But did you know that the Tree Committee of Bengaluru has no information on 800 plus trees which will be felled for the project? Or that the flyover is now going to be 8.3 km long?

No? Don’t fret, because we are as surprised by the lack of transparency in the project as you are. Apart from the urgency with which the authorities are pushing the project (even as a number of flyovers remain unfinished in the city), here are a few other questions which remain unanswered.

Environmental impact

The BDA said in an FAQ document it released about a week ago that it is exempt from consulting the Environment Ministry for felling the trees for the project. However, according to Meera Bhardwaj’s report in The New Indian Express on Wednesday, the Tree Committee of Bengaluru has to be informed when more than 50 trees are in question.

But Tree Committee member Vijay Nishanth said that they received no notice or circular about the same. More often than not, they end up receiving information from “different sources with no clarity”.

The report also mentions how the stretch is lined with trees of ecological value: sandalwood, teak and mulberry to name a few. Axing these trees is bound to create more heat islands in the city, raising the temperature by 2-3 degrees as well, experts said.

Shilpa Baburaj quotes Sanjeev V Dyammanavar, who created an online platform to engage citizens in civic issues, for TOI: “For any big project, the feasibility report has to be prepared by BDA and the probable environmental impact should be investigated by the pollution control board.” However, this process too was circumvented by the BDA.  

Toll and road extension 

Deccan Herald reported on Tuesday that in a “secret move”, the government approved an order (dated October 13) for collecting toll fee from people using the flyover. While the BDA is yet to finalise the toll for different kinds of vehicles, the cost isn’t going to be easy on commuters’ pockets, given that the project itself costs 1,350 crore, according to the BDA document.

PM Raghunandan also reports that while the Law and Parliamentary Affairs department had earlier said that a decision may be taken in this regard, the approval for introducing toll fee is based on a Cabinet decision.

And then there’s the question of the length of the flyover. As of September 28, Bengaluru Development Minister K J George and Additional Chief Secretary to Urban Development Department Mahendra Jain claimed that the Cabinet had approved extending the steel flyover till the elevated road to the airport (near Esteem Mall). However, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah admitted on Monday that the decision was taken after the Cabinet meeting and not during it as claimed by Mahendra Jain.

No master plan

The Namma Bengaluru Foundation, which started a petition on change.org to oppose the flyover, points out that the flyover does not fit into any “master plan”. With absence of proper details about the project in the public domain, it is not clear how the feasibility of the project can be evaluated in a holistic manner.

Further, the government has been completely silent on questions of why it is pushing the flyover as opposed to heeding demands for better public transport. The FAQ document released by the BDA completely glosses over this question too and focuses on defending the flyover.

Flaky public consultation?

After it was mentioned for the first time by Siddaramaiah in the 2014-15 budget, the Detailed Project Report was prepared in March 2014, but not made available to the public according to Shree DN’s report in Citizen Matters Bangalore. What followed was opposition from activists, given that the government had not revealed relevant details about the project.

In July, the government finally called for public consultation. However, the argument here is that the public consultation could not be wholesome because there were still no details in the public domain about the project. Later, the BDA claimed that they had received 299 responses, 73% of which were positive, following which they decided to go forward with the flyover.

However, Suresh N Ranganath of NBS told Citizen Matters that because the BDA had made no attempt to make these responses public, it was difficult to trust the BDA.

 

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