Karnataka to revive controversial steel bridge project

G Parameshwara

Bengaluru: The Karnataka government Tuesday decided to review and take up a multi-billion steel bridge project here, 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.

“There is a dire need for the bridge. That’s 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, State BJP President B S Yeddyurappa took strong objection to the ‘arbitrary’ decision of the government to go ahead with the project, when environmentalists, urban experts and even H D 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 told reporters here.

“Taking up projects that will not solve the peoples problems and without taking the public into confidence will not solve their problems and is nothing but a mockery of democracy,” he said. The BJP was not against development of infrastructure per se, but was opposed to ‘misuse’ of public funds in the name of development, Yeddyurappa said.

Meanwhile, BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar-run Namma Bengaluru Foundation Director N R Suresh alleged that the revisit to the controversial matter was nothing but an attempt to divert attention from key issues plaguing Bangalore.

“Lack of transparency, non disclosure of DPR and the governments misleading attempt to downplay the environmental impact with claims of only 800 trees when an independent survey found out that over 2000 trees were to be cut and 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.