Bigger protest soon against steel bridge

Bigger protest soon against steel bridge

Citizen groups are angry the government has revived a discredited project

Human chain to protest against the steel flyover project on October 16, 2016. The government, which had shelved the project, is now out to revive it. DH Photo by B K Janardhan

The steel flyover is back in news. Deputy chief minister G Parameshwara on Tuesday said the state government was considering the project again after consulting the public.

The stretch between Chalukya Circle and Esteem Mall requires a steel bridge, he says, while citizen forums have a different opinion.

Mukunda N S, founder president of Citizens’ Action Forum, points out that a project banned by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) cannot be brought back.

“The steel flyover is not essential to solve the traffic problem. An alternative road can be developed from Whitefield to Bengaluru International Airport, and from Electronics City to the BIAL,” he says. 

The group has suggested smaller flyovers. “We are not against flyovers, many flyovers in the city are essential. All citizen’s groups plan to come together and bring together a joint petition that will explain with scientific facts about why this steel flyover is not required,” he explains. 

He hopes citizens will continue online petitions and protests to draw attention to the project.

“Concentrate on commuter rail and build relevant railway stations and tracks that connect to the airport.”

While the #SteelFlyoverBeda is fetching attention online again, Srinivas Alavilli, founding member of Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), says that this Rs 2,000 crore project triggered massive protests and a ballot that collected votes from 42,000 people against it.

“Everybody in the city could understand that everyone was against the project. When the minister is saying that they will go ahead with the project, they have to understand that there are many opposed to it, including the NGT and the High Court.”

Srinivas is also puzzled how, when Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy termed the project as bogus, how the Deputy Chief Minister was making such statements. 

“The city is where it is now because we have always prioritised flyovers. In the last 10 to 15 years, we have built 50 flyovers but the traffic situation still exists. Our flyovers are just band-aid solutions. Anytime we built more flyovers or such infrastructural projects, there are more vehicles on the road,” he adds. 

When cities like Mumbai and Chennai can come with more feasible transport solutions, why can’t Bengaluru, he asks. “In Bengaluru, we only have a well-networked transport system -- buses -- but they are not allotted a proper budget. We need a strong suburban railway network,” he says. 

Many people were of the opinion that software professionals, and those from the middle class and upper middle class were the dominant voices in the protests last time.

CfB hopes to reach out across other sections of society and get garment workers, and members of Bengaluru Bus Prayaanikara Vedike also into the fold this time.

“We hope citizens will continue to make their opinion heard. The protests will definitely be bigger and louder this time,” he says.

Activist and co-founder of CfB, Tara Krishnaswamy, is surprised that a project canned by the green trubunal and the courts is being revived.

She adds that there has been no public consultation or environmental clearance for the project. 

“There are many points to be considered here: if one looks at the traffic hotspots, the specified route is not one of them. Secondly, the BIAL itself states that 97,000 passengers are the peak traffic they have experienced per day, which is less than 1 percent of the city’s population. Of this 1 per cent, 40 per cent Bengalureans come in from Whitefield, 30 per cent from Tumakuru and 30 per cent is from across the city (which includes people from Chalukya Circle and Hebbal). The best solution for reaching faster: just leave earlier,” she says.

Tara says the public protested because “the traffic situation can’t be solved by this”.

“What has the government done to make the Metro lines stronger and build a route to the airport. Alternate roads could have ben developed but it hasn’t been worked out yet,” she says. Tara hopes “more and more citizens will join activist groups, create conversations online and in person, and raise their voices against such projects”.  

Reports were fudged: tree doctor

Vijay Nishanth, better known as the tree doctor, reckons that when the steel flyover was suggested, the authorities said 800 trees would be cut.

“Many activists came together to create a report. We found out that 2,224 trees would be affected if the project came through. We documented the value of all the trees,” he says.

Transplanting is not an answer, he says. “It is clear that not all trees can be transplanted and it doesn’t work in all situations,” he explains. He says activists aren’t against development; but are seeking ecological and holistic solutions, and after public consultation.