Steel flyovers come back to haunt Bengaluru, path cleared for six more?

The DPR states that the steel flyovers will be part of the state or national highways and that each flyover will be less than 100 km.
Steel flyovers come back to haunt Bengaluru, path cleared for six more?
Steel flyovers come back to haunt Bengaluru, path cleared for six more?
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Bengaluru’s traffic is legendary, so much so that it once stopped a terrorist attack. Now the Karnataka government has a new master plan which it claims will be able to solve Bengaluru’s traffic woes – construct six steel flyovers at the cost of Rs 19,000 crore, requiring the chopping of over 3,000 trees.

The state government finally seems to have managed to find a loophole to get rid of the procedure of obtaining environmental clearance for this outrageous project.

Six elevated corridors at Rs 19,000 crore

The new proposal has six planned flyovers cutting across the city:

1. The North – South Corridor (NS): Connecting Airport Flyover (near Esteem Mall) and Silk Board Junction. This corridor starts from Airport Flyover and ends at Silk Board Flyover cutting across Jayamahal Main Road, Queen’s Road-Indian Express Junction, Infantry Road Junction, Minsk Square, Kasturba Road, Hudson Circle, Audugodi Nala and the Audugodi Main Road.

2. East – West Corridor-1: Connecting NH48 at Battarahalli and Gorguntepalya on Tumkur Road. The project corridor starts at Battarahalli on Old Madras Road and ends at Gorguntapalya junction on Tumkur Road passing through Devasandra Main Road, Ramamurthy Nagar Main Road Junction, KR Puram cable stayed bridge, Suranjandas Road Junction, 80 Feet Road Junction, 100 Feet Indiranagar Road Junction, D Bhaskaran Road Junction, Kensington Road Junction (Philips buildings), Ulsoor Lake, St John’s Road, Miller’s Road, Jayamahal Main Road, Mekri circle, CV Raman Road, Yeswanthapur Flyover, Yeshwanthpur Railway Station and Outer Ring Road junction (CMTI).

3. East – West Corridor-2 (EW-2): Connecting SH-35, Varthur Kodi to NICE Link Road on Mysore Road. This corridor takes off at Varthur Kodi junction on SH-35 via Kundalahalli gate junction, Marathahalli underpass, Suranjandas Road Junction, Old Airport road, Wind tunnel road junction, Domlur Junction, Trinity Church Junction, D’Souza Circle, General KS Thimayya Road, Vellara Junction, Richmond Circle, KH Road, Lalbagh Main Road, Minerva junction, Chamarajpet 5th Main Road, Alur Venkata Rao Road, Sirsi Circle, Satellite Bus Station, Bapuji Nagar, Deepanjali Nagar, Nayandahalli Junction and Rajarajeshwari Nagar Gate reaching Mysuru Road.

4. Connecting Corridor-1 (CC-1): This corridor is supposed to connect the North-South corridor and Sarjapura Road. The flyover will begin at Sarjapur Bridge and traverse through Jakkasandra, Madiwala Market Junction and Koramangala 100 Feet Road Junction.

5. Connecting Corridor-2 (CC-2): This corridor is planned to connect the East-West Corridor-1 and East-West Corridor-2, which starts from D’Souza Circle on Richmond Road Junction and ends at Ulsoor Lake via General KS Thimayya Road.

6. Connecting Corridor-3 (CC-3): This corridor creates connectivity between St John’s Church Road and Outer Ring Road (ORR) at Kalyan Nagar.

Bypassing environmental clearance

The elevated corridors were first mentioned in the 2015 state budget. When the feasibility report was released, the project had faced the ire of several environmental activists and also numerous residents of the city.

The subsequent “Steel Flyover Beda” movement had resulted in the government ordering the agency in-charge – the infamous Bengaluru Development Authority – to stop the project.

Over 2,000 precious trees in the city, whose green cover is rapidly depleting, were saved from being chopped off. Now the government seems to have found a loophole in the law and decided to go ahead and construct six steel flyovers.

The project has been handed over to the Karnataka Road Development Corporation, which released the detailed project report (DPR) last week. The DPR states that the steel flyovers will either be part of the state or national highways and that each flyover will be less than 100 km. This will ensure that within the bounds of the law, the government does not need environmental clearance for the project.

“Elevated corridors do not have mention in the list of projects qualifying for environmental clearance as per EIA Notification (Environmental Impact Assessment of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) and its amendments. Considering elevated corridors as a part of national and state highways which do have mention in the schedule of Notification, neither total length of the elevated corridor do not exceed 100 km nor involve additional right of way or land acquisition greater than 40 m on the existing alignments. On the other hand, buildings and construction projects which are open to sky and has activity area spread equal to or more area than 20,000 sqm are qualified to be considered for environmental clearance and there is a possibility for considering elevated corridor projects under construction projects as per schedule 8A of EIA Notification,” the DPR states.

The DPR also states that 3,821 trees will be cut down and 2,084 will be trimmed. “Significant adverse impact will be on avenue trees along the proposed corridor alignment. It is estimated that approximately 3821 trees are to be cut and around 2084 are to be trimmed,” the DPR adds.

Shockingly, the DPR also cites the possibility of polluting the Ulsoor Lake as the corridor will come up next to the water body. Ulsoor Lake is one of the cleaner ones in Bengaluru, especially after the Madras Sappers cleaned it up in 2009.

The project is also expected to add an additional 30,000 litres of sewage into the stormwater drains, thereby polluting numerous lakes. Not to mention the construction debris that will likely be dumped in the lakes or their bufferzones.

The lakes which will be affected include the KR Puram Lake, Benniganahali Lake, Sarvagnanagar Lake, Ulsoor Lake, Varthur Lake, Thurubarahalli Lake, Vrishabhavati primary stormwater drain, Sampangi Lake, Agara Lake and Chellakere Lake.

Activists angry

“The government has clearly found a backdoor entry and now they are saying that the environmental clearance is not required. By showcasing this as an area development project rather than something which is cutting across the city, the government is masking the reality. This will affect the entire city. Back when one steel flyover was proposed, the DPR had said that 800 trees would be cut. But we found that the number was actually over 2,000. The number of trees that will be cut will be thrice the number they have mentioned in the new DPR,” says Tara Krishnaswamy, a member of Citizens for Bengaluru, the NGO which had spearheaded the Steel Flyover Beda campaign.

Activists are also angry that even though the DPR was released last week, the government had not called for public consultation, thereby covering up the discrepancies in the DPR.

“When you see the DPR, the flyovers cut across the city and meet at CBD. When a large chunk of the population is concentrated in certain suburbs, a peripheral ring road makes sense. CBD is not where the new layouts are coming up. If someone is working in Marathahalli, why should he or she come from CBD to Marathahalli. They can easily use the peripheral ring road and reduce congestion within the city. Why CBD? If they want connect hotspots like Sarjapur, KR Puram and other areas where the layouts are now concentrated and employment is being generated, then elevated corridors cutting across CBD will only add to the congestion. These flyovers are not serving the purpose,” Tara argues.

Citizens for Bengaluru is planning to hold a consultation meeting next week and multiple protests later on various issues including the environmental impact, the redundancy of the plan and also the fact that the government did not call for public consultation.

“We will hold multiple protests. We cannot let this happen,” Tara adds.

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