Demolition shortcuts

Demolition shortcuts

In 2005, when the Jayadeva flyover opened on Bannerghatta Road, the intention was clear: To decongest the chaotic junction and ease commute for the next 30 years. But in a classic case of poor planning, lack of inter-agency coordination and foresight, the expensive asset is all set to be reduced to dust for the Namma Metro.

Twelve years ago, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) had spent Rs 21 crore of tax-payer's money to build the six-lane flyover. Commuters had endured years of chaos sparked by the construction. A bigger, bitter struggle awaits them in taxing traffic diversions, as a seamless, planned vision for the city takes a huge, numbing hit.

Alternatives unexplored

The Metro alignment has been in the works for years. If vested interests have notoriously managed to change the route in some reaches, why could the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation not bypass an existing asset and minimize public misery? This is a critical question posed by urban mobility and traffic experts, as public opinion gets steamrolled once again.

Beyond the Jayadeva flyover, such short-sighted projects abound. If the K R Puram cable-stayed bridge remains an enduring example of poor design, planning and execution, flyovers across Bengaluru in their crumbling states showcase a system in decay, trapped in a well-oiled nexus of corrupt contractors, condoning bureaucrats and political vested interests.

ORR imbroglio

The Outer Ring Road virtually comes to a standstill at the cable-stayed bridge. The monster structure's much-hyped designers had carved out a single underpass for vehicles to cross over, just outside the crowded K R Puram railway station. The Ring Road itself has been a victim of bad planning with several flyovers and underpasses built later as an afterthought.

Shouldn't the Jayadeva flyover fiasco be a lesson for the city's planners? Sathya Sankaran from Citizens for Sustainability (CiFoS) agrees. "Ten years ago, the Master Plan 2015 was there for reference. But it did not show the Metro alignments," he points out. "At least in the final Revised Master Plan 2031, all the Metro routes should be clearly demarcated."

Unplanned approvals

But there is a larger issue. "Today, plan approvals for projects big and small are given without any consideration for the Master Plan. A new mass transport project, such as the Metro, is then always catching up. This reactionary method will hurt us in the long run everywhere in the city," Sankaran warns.

Thirty years from now, if the city has to plan for autonomous vehicles or trams or any other mass transport option, you will end up pulling down more flyovers. "Everything is ad-hoc. You build, you destroy. Look at the Hebbal flyover. Can it accommodate a Metro if an alignment comes that way? What about a tram service that cuts across that junction?"

To bypass existing structures, going underground is a viable option for Namma Metro. But BMRCL did not set a precedent even when it had every reason to do so. The Metro line over M G Road is a classic case, as civic evangelist V Ravichander reminds. "If they had the foresight, the line should have gone underground on M G Road. Taking the ugly structures above ground and destroying the most iconic road of Bengaluru was the most stupid thing to do," he says.

That hasty decision to go over ground despite strong public opposition could prove costly for the Metro, warns Ravichander. Reason: Integration with the second phase line. The same planning and integration loophole has already kicked off much heat after Metro's choice of a site for the Cantonment station, 800m away from the existing railway station.

75-year vision

Mega mass transport projects such as the Metro have to be planned with at least a 75-year vision. This will, as Ravichander reasons, ensure future-proofing. Integration issues with flyovers, railway stations and bus stations will then become easier. "But today, Metro is such a blue-eyed boy that everything else, however costly it was to build, should make way."

At the Jayadeva junction, getting anxious by the day over the demolition, eatery owner Krishna Murthy worries about this misplaced priority. "There is no planning, no ideation. I am forced to wind up my business of 25 years here. Seven big buildings will also go. If they had planned in advance, all this trouble could have been avoided," he laments.

Unimaginable chaos

Once the dust kicked up by the demolition settles, the Metro pillars will start coming up. Businesses and residents around the area are gearing up for a long haul. So are the traffic police. As an assistant sub-inspector at the spot notes, a massive traffic diversion is on the cards. An unimaginable peak-hour chaos is just about to unfold.

Eventually, who will take responsibility for this planning fiasco? Civil engineering and transport analyst M N Sreedhari articulates this concern when he wonders, "Who is accountable for building the structure in the first place? Why didn't they plan to take the Metro lines there underground? Why were alternatives not explored?" Answers are apparently hard to come by in this open enactment of what many call 'money-laundering.'

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