Once upon a time, the word “Bangalore” would make you automatically swoon for perfect weather, large acacia trees taking their place as the city’s guard and the quiet hum of the birds in the air. That Bangalore, for most Bangaloreans, is dead. The little that is left acts as a gross reminder of our folly, and now even that stands to be threatened. Earlier this month, the Karnataka State cabinet approved the Bangalore Steel Flyover Project, as a proposed solution to Bangalore’s gross traffic problem. The flyover, to be constructed by Larson & Toubro and Nagarjuna Ltd. will connect Basaveshwara circle to the Hebbal Flyover, which extends onwards towards the airport expressway. The projected cost is 1,791 crores with a completion time of 24 months. With such large-scale construction, there is collateral damage in the form of 812 trees, the last remains of the once upon a time “Garden City”.
Bangalore’s citizens have united against this project that has violated due process at every step of the way. The Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), an organization working towards ensuring planned growth, development and maintenance of Bangalore has issued a PIL against the State Government. The petitioner, NBF, states that no public hearing was held, and this project has not been placed before the Metropolitan Planning Committee. Homegrown spoke to the CEO of NBF, Mr Sridhar Pabbisetty who told us, “How can such a large project be undertaken without due process? There is a mandated level of transparency that is required, under the Right To Information Act. A due public consultation should be called for as part of due process. Furthermore, Bangalore metropolitan area is constitutionally governed by the Metropolitan Planning Committee. This project is not a part of the existing master plan of the Bangalore Development Authority and all the more reason to be taken to the MPC. By not tabling the project to the committee, article 243 ZE of the Indian Constitution is violated.”
The Karnataka High Court declined to grant an interim stay order for this PIL. “A division bench headed by Chief Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee observed that any such order stalling such a big project can be passed at this stage.The court however ordered notice to state government and others reserving liberty to file objections to the petition filed by Namma Bengaluru Foundation” as reported by Times of India. Mr. Pabbisetty responded to this by saying “Although they have not granted an interim stay order, the High Court has said that the outcome of the PIL will impact the project. Additionally, in the PIL we have requested for a detailed project plan, an Environmental Impact Assessment, and a feasibility report. The court has given the Government 6 weeks to present all of this information.”
Homegrown got the chance to speak with Mr. Prakash Belawadi, a prominent theatre personality in India who is one of the people spearheading for the Citizen’s Movement against the flyover, part of which is the Human Chain event taking place on the 16th of October. We asked him what message they hope to send to the government through the chain, and he said “The idea is to demonstrate that ‘people care for Bengaluru’ while government doesn’t. Also a human chain is a unique way of expression - it’s soft, signifies unity and togetherness, it’s ‘for’ something - in this case about Bengaluru’s beauty and environment - rather than ‘against’.” As for the movement’s plan, there will be a follow-up meeting on the next Sunday, Oct.23, at Rotary House of Friendship where experts will deliberate the subject. This session will be recorded, transcribed and presented before the court of law.
Apart from destroying trees and violating the due process, what has angered the public is the ignorance to cheap and long term solutions. For instance, a larger fleet of buses on Bangalore’s roads is absolutely necessary. Business Insider reported that Namma Metro (Bangalore’s Metro rail) which is still in its first phase, carries approximately 160,000 passengers daily and its completion before the due date may go well with the city’s environment. The flyover might be a quick fix for one of the areas in Bangalore whereas the traffic in the city needs a long term growth plan. Public transport couple with respect for environment must factor in the development of any urban city. The flyover will only solve the problem for one tiny section of the city, whereas traffic is a constant issue all around. Improvement in public transport, long term planning for growth and respect for the environment is what Bangalore needs if it stands a chance at being saved.