Here’s why the 102-km elevated corridor may not become a reality in Bengaluru

By Elton Gomes

The Karnataka government, on Thursday, gave its approval for construction of the 102 kilometre long elevated corridor. The proposed corridor will span the city and is aimed at decongesting Bengaluru’s traffic by 2025.

Allocating Rs 100 crore for the project in the budget, Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said: “This [The elevated corridors] is a good contribution to Bengaluru’s transportation system as this scheme is formulated keeping in view the elevated corridor and Bengaluru Metro Scheme,” the Hindu reported.

The project will be executed by the Karnataka Road Development Corporation (KRDCL). In a meeting with KRDCL officials, chaired by Kumaraswamy, the Chief Minister said that the corridor will be ready by 2025.

Kumaraswamy further said that his government has invited objections from the public, and the last date for filing the same has been extended by a week.

A final report of the project approved by Kumaraswamy stated, “The government of Karnataka has planned for seven elevated corridors to ensure safe, fast and congestion-free connectivity to different parts of the city. The project, which was mmooted 12 years ago, will be completed in 8-10 years and officials expect work to begin as early as 2019,” as per a report in the Times of India.

Which corridors are being planned?

The three major corridors planned are the North-South Corridor (which stretch from Mekhri circle to Central Silk Board), East-West Corridor-1 (from Krishna Raj Puram to Gorguntepalya), East-West Corridor-2 (from Varthur Kodi to Chord Road Junction).

In addition, the following connecting corridors have also been planned: Connecting Corridor-1 (Kalasipalya to Agara on Outer Ring Road), Connecting Corridor-2 (from Ulsoor to East-West Corridor-2 at D’souza circle), and Connecting Corridor-3 (from East-West Corridor-1 at Wheeler’s road Jn to Kalyan Nagar at Outer Ring Road).

How much does the project cost?

Including land acquisition, the cost of the project has been pegged at Rs 25,495 crore. In the budget, CM Kumaraswamy had sanctioned Rs 100 crore for the corridor. The CM said that the government has to acquire 92 acres for the corridor, of which only 17 acres are private land.

Why the project will not qualify for environmental clearance?

The Detailed Feasibility Report (DFR) has said that the project will not be able to receive environmental clearance as elevated corridors are not mentioned on the list of projects that receive environmental clearance.

The DFR said, “Elevated corridors do not have mention in the list of projects qualifying for environmental clearance as per Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification. Considering elevated corridors as a part of national and state highways, neither total length of the elevated corridor is more than 100 km nor additional right of way or land acquisition is greater than 40 m on the existing alignments,” as per an India Today report.

This is because certain stretches of the alignment of the proposed elevated corridor form a part of National Highways (NH 4 and NH 7) and State Highways. This is why the elevated corridor could be classified as NH or SH, and thus they would be unable to receive environmental clearance. However, as the elevated corridor has been developed with an aim to decongest Bengaluru’s roads, this project could be classified under the project or activity under the category “7(f) Highways”.

“Instead, there is a possibility for considering elevated corridor projects under buildings and construction projects which are open to sky and has activity area spread equal to or more area than 20,000 sq metre as per schedule 8A of EIA Notification,” the DFR said, as per the India Today report.

What have citizen groups said?

Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), a peoples movement that collectively opposed the controversial steel flyover in 2017, believes that the elevated corridor project is yet another misplaced priority of the state government.

Tara Krishnaswamy, a CfB member told News18 that the government has not held any public consultation for the project, which is a crucial aspect under the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act 1961.

“The government does an eye wash by organising Janaaspandana programmes, but peoples’ opinions are never taken when it comes to big projects like the elevated corridor. There has been no social, economic or environmental impact assessment done,” Krishnaswamy told News18.

Another CfB member, Srinivas Alavilli, said, “The plan is flawed not because of the details that go into it. The fundamentals of the plan that assume a 100 km corridor which cuts across the North, South, East, West of the city, that brings non-existent traffic into the city that itself is fundamentally flawed,” India Today reported.

Alavilli said that the government should instead focus on suburban trains, speed up the metro construction, and fix the footpaths in the city.

Traffic in Bengaluru

Bengaluru’s monstrous traffic jams have drastically slowed down the city – almost every Bengalurian will have a legendary traffic story to narrate. Bengaluru’s traffic has resulted in severe economic costs as well.

The city loses Rs 38,000 crore ($5.92 billion) every year in social costs of traffic congestion, as per a study by the Boston Consulting Group commissioned by cab aggregator Uber.

Travelling in Bengaluru traffic takes an average of 162 percent more time than the same distance travelled during off peak hours. “For Kolkata and Bangalore, congestion levels are relatively higher than in other cities, despite their smaller populations. This is driven by the limitation of their older public transport networks which are primarily road-based, along with a significant growth in private vehicles,” the study noted, as per a report in the New Indian Express.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius

BengaluruElevated CorridorInfrastructureKarnataka