Bengaluru: The Karnataka cabinet’s decision to approve the Rs.1,791-crore steel flyover—touted to be the longest in the country—in Bengaluru has come in for severe criticism with citizens, opposition parties and environmentalists.
They are raising concerns over the project, which requires felling of at least 800 full-grown trees, but is unlikely to de-congest one of the busiest roads in the city among other issues, including ‘vested interests’.
Netizens have filed a petition on Change.org, which at the time of filing this report on Thursday had 4,117 signatures. Even the petition to stop the formation of the Cauvery Management Board, a far more sensitive topic which resonates with the entire state, has only 373 signatures, highlighting the growing opposition to the Bengaluru project.
Opposition parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are using the issue to corner the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government.
“The state government’s approach to implement the project on a war footing gives room for suspicion,” Jagadish Shettar, former chief minister and BJP’s leader of opposition in the assembly, said on Thursday.
Ironically, the BJP government had first proposed the construction of the flyover in its 2014-15 budget under Shettar. “It was only a proposal but the present government should consider the implications while implementing the project,”Shettar said.
Rajkumar Khatri, Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) commissioner, reasoned that for every tree that is cut, the department would plant 10—an all too-familiar promise, which has failed to cut ice with those opposing the project.
“Substituting trees with ornamental plants is nothing but stupidity,” S.Suresh Kumar, former law minister and senior BJP leader, quoting environmentalist Yellappa Reddy, wrote in his letter to Siddaramaiah on Thursday.
For the opposition, the huge costs and alleged diversion of funds have been the bone of contention while environmentalists question the “massacre” of trees—the first casualty for every developmental project undertaken in Bengaluru.
Projects such as widening of at least 200 major roads were put on hold after massive protests from public forums. The Bengaluru Metro is also held responsible for felling over 2,000 trees.
Vinay Sreenivasa of Hasiru Usiru, a Bengaluru-based environmental group, said that the state government should hold a public consultation for any project involving cutting of more than 50 trees. He added that the flyover is also not part of the city’s master plan.
MP Rajeev Chandrashekar said that this is a case where the people are saying “enough is enough” and making it apparent (with the protests) that it would become very expensive for the government to continue business as usual.
He said that recent protests over the Bellandur Lake, double speak over storm water drain encroachments and now the steel bridge is “waking the collective conscience of the people”.