A bench of the Karnataka High Court on March 13 ordered the state government to halt the construction of the controversial elevated corridor project. The corridor is to be constructed in Bengaluru, Karnataka, for which the Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL) had floated tenders without public consultation. The next date of hearing on the case is on March 19.
Tender sparks protest
The 102-km-long elevated corridor project poses a threat to over 3,000 trees of fully-grown trees in Bengaluru and has sparked a massive outrage among the citizens, both online and offline. Civic groups and residents are preparing to take on the government over the controversial project. KRDCL floated a tender for the first phase i.e., the North-South corridor of 22.12 km from Ballari Road to Silk Board Junction on March 4 without prior public consultation.
Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) has organised a rally on Saturday, March 16 to demand the government to withdraw the tender for the first phase of the elevated corridor project. Protestors are carrying out the protest under the slogan ‘#ElevatedCorridorTenderRadduMadi’ (stop the tender). This massive protest which will see the participation of some very prominent citizen activist groups from the city is a reminder of the 2016 steel-flyover project where protesters formed human chains which forced the government to backtrack. Even a petition on Change.org under the name “Save Cubbon Park, Elevated Corridor Beda” has garnered over one lakh signatures.
Trees felled for the project
The petition was filed after public got to know that 120 trees in the Cubbon Park area will be felled for the project. The News Minute reported that study conducted by consultants Aecom, Deloitte and Infra Support shows that 858 trees are in “sensitive wooded stretches”. According to the Environmental Impact Assessment report, over 3700 trees will be either felled or translocated to build the network of elevated corridors. Even though the Compensatory Afforestation Policy under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 states that for every tree cut, 10 new trees need to be planted, activists are sceptical.
Citizen activist Sandeep Anirudhan, while speaking to The Logical Indian said that the number of trees which will be felled is seriously being downplayed and even planting 10 trees will not compensate for the loss of green cover in the city.
However, not everyone is against the elevated corridor project, a group of citizens representing Residents Welfare Associations (RWAs) petitioned the government on March 13 expressing support for the project.
What is the project?
The Kumaraswamy-led state government of Karnataka on November 29 gave the green signal to the contentious 102 km-long elevated corridor project. To be built at an estimated cost of Rs 25,495 crore, the corridor is aimed at reducing the traffic woes of the city.
Reportedly, the proposed corridor will connect north-south, east-west and central parts of the city and the work for the same will be taken up by Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL). While this project was mooted 12 years ago, the report approved by the chief minister said that it will be completed in the next eight to ten years, reported The News Minute.
While the proposed plan may seem to address the tech city’s growing menace of private vehicles and traffic congestion, citizen rights activists, scholars and researchers have been opposing the construction of this mega corridor. The project was earlier shelved by the erstwhile Siddaramaiah government owing to the opposition. Activists today are of the opinion that the ambitious project is a waste of money and is not a sustainable solution to traffic congestion.
Citizen activists raise concerns
This time too, the organisation has come forward to voice their concerns with regards to the elevated corridor project which will span the length and breadth of the city. Talking to The Logical Indian, Srinivas Alavilli, a member of CFB not only raised his concerns but also asked some very pertinent questions.
For citizen activists, sustainability remains the key contention here. He asks, “Is this the best use of money for the state government?” While the government has been pushing for the project in the guise that it will reduce traffic and make travel time faster, Alavilli feels that the move only shows government’s interest in paving the way for private vehicle owners.
He said, “The flyover will create what is known as induced traffic which will only make situations worse in the city.” This is true considering Bengaluru is already crawling with bumper-to-bumper traffic on a routine basis. According to recent state Transport Department data, the total number of cars and two-wheelers which were registered in the Bengaluru Metropolitan area till October 2018 stood at 14,94,375 and 54,15,116 respectively. Experts and activists collectively feel that the elevated corridor will accelerate the growth in the number of vehicles in the city, hence contributing to air pollution.