Karnataka deputy chief minister defends move to revive Bengaluru steel bridge project

[] Karnataka’s deputy chief minister G Parameshwara has defended the state government’s decision to revive the multi-billion steel bridge project, which was shelved earlier following massive public protests

Defending the state government’s move, to reconsider the Bengaluru steel flyover project, Karnataka’s deputy chief minister G Parameshwara, on January 3, 2019, said there was a need for the infrastructure project to tackle the growing traffic problem in the city. Citing a projection that the city’s population may swell to two crores in 10 years, he said planning must be done, keeping in mind the requirements for the next 20 years.

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Presently, around 75 lakh to 80 lakh vehicles plied on the city roads. The government was only trying to find alternatives, such as suburban rail, the second and third phases of the metro rail and elevated roads, Parameshwara said, adding that the steel grade separator would definitely be useful.

Scrapped ‘Bangalore steel flyover’ to be reconsidered by Karnataka govt

The Karnataka government has decided to review a Rs 2,200-crore steel bridge project, from Chalukya Circle to Esteem Mall in Bengaluru, which had been scrapped, following massive public protests in the city

January 2, 2019: The Karnataka government, on January 1, 2019, decided to review and take up a multi-billion steel bridge project in Bengaluru, which it had scrapped owing to massive public protests in the city. The previous Siddaramaiah government had cleared the steel bridge from Chalukya Circle to Esteem Mall at an estimated cost of Rs 2,200 crore, but abandoned it after a public outcry over allegations of lack of transparency.

“Earlier, the Siddaramaiah government had given the nod to the steel flyover. The project was brought to a halt for various reasons. Now, again, we have decided to review and take up the project in the public interest,” deputy chief minister G Parameshwara said. However, this time, the government has decided to move cautiously as it intends to seek public opinion, before starting the project work. He said all information would be put in the public domain, so that people can analyse the project, give suggestions and provide other information.

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“There is a dire need for the bridge. That is why the detailed project report, design of the plan, estimates and all that will be put in the public domain for their perusal. I will also invite suggestions and information on it. Then only, we will table the proposal before the government, for final decision,” Parameshwara said. Parameshwara said the steel bridge would reduce travel time from the city to the Kempegowda International Airport from 40-45 minutes to 20-22 minutes. He said many people miss their flights due to traffic on the Ballari Road that leads to the international airport.

Calling it a ‘steel monstrosity’, critics of the project have said that the government would end up spending more on painting the structure, to avoid it getting rusted. They also said the flyover would take away the aesthetics of Bengaluru. However, the deputy chief minister said there were political reasons too behind opposition to the project and he was ready to sort out all the problems and shortcomings in it.

Meanwhile, the state BJP president BS Yeddyurappa took strong objection to the ‘arbitrary’ decision of the government, to go ahead with the project, when environmentalists, urban experts and even HD Kumaraswamy, as state JD(S) president, had objected to it. “The environmentalists and urban experts had opposed the steel bridge. They had said it was unviable and would not solve the traffic problem. Even Kumaraswamy had objected to this project in the past when he was JD(S) president,” he said. “Taking up projects that will not solve the people’s problems and without taking the public into confidence, will not solve their problems and is nothing but a mockery of democracy,” he said.

Meanwhile, BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar-run Namma Bengaluru Foundation’s director NR Suresh, alleged that the revisit to the controversial matter was nothing but an attempt to divert attention from key issues plaguing Bengaluru. “Lack of  transparency, non-disclosure of DPR and the government’s misleading attempt to downplay the environmental impact, with claims of only 800 trees when an independent survey found out that over 2,000 trees were to be cut, was the reason why the public opposed this move,” he said in a statement. The government must focus on alternative modes of transport, like enhancing metro and suburban railway connectivity to the airport, Suresh said.

Bengaluru citizens demand alternative to steel flyover, to decongest airport road

A group of citizens in Bengaluru have staged a demonstration, demanding that the government come out with an alternative plan to decongest the road that connects the city with its international airport and surrounding areas, following its decision to scrap a steel flyover project

March 6, 2017: Holding placards, a group of citizens, claiming to be residents of the northern part of Bengaluru, along which the road connecting the airport passes through, demanded that alternative arrangements be made, to ease the traffic in the region.

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The demonstration comes in the wake of the government’s decision to scrap the steel flyover project.  While the protesters said that they were not adamant about the steel flyover, some of them also criticised those opposed to the project, accusing them of being anti-development and of showing fake environmental concern, as there was plan in place for mass planting of trees.

“We are not adamant that we want only steel bridge. A cement bridge, elevated highway or a metro is also fine. We want something to be done to decongest traffic on this road and to reduce the time taken to commute along this stretch,” a resident of Yelahanka said. “All of a sudden, the steel bridge project has been called off, without any alternative plan. Look at the traffic on this road,” another citizen said.

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The Karnataka government on March 2, 2017, had announced its decision to scrap the controversial steel flyover project, following allegations of kickback of crores of rupees. The Rs 1,800-crore project had been facing stiff opposition from citizen groups, over environmental concerns and doubts over its sustainability model.

Questions were also raised regarding escalation in its cost. An estimated 812 trees would have had to be felled for the project that was stayed by the National Green Tribunal in 2016.

Recent allegations of crores of rupees received as kickback in connection with the project, allegedly mentioned in diary entries of Congress MLC Govindaraju, had also marred the project. Govindaraju’s alleged diary entries, reportedly consisting of information relating to payoffs made by state Congress leaders to the party’s central leaders, have kicked up a political storm in the state.

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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