Chennai, Dec 20 The southern bench of the National Green Tribunal on Tuesday extended the interim stay against the controversial steel flyover bridge project in Bengaluru to January 18, a petitioner said.
"After hearing arguments of both counsels, the two-member bench extended the interim stay to January 18 for further hearing," petitioner V. Balasubramanian told IANS.
The tribunal bench, headed by Justice M. Chokalingam and expert member P.S. Rao, however, allowed the state-run Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) to conduct soil testing and survey of the area for environmental impact.
"The bench has allowed the respondent (BDA) to only test the soil and assess the environmental impact of the project as they were some of the issues we raised in our joint petition against the project," reiterated Balasubramanian, a retired IAS officer.
The 6.7 km six-lane steel bridge from Chalukya circle to Hebbal, connecting the airport road in the city's northern suburb and the National Highway number 7 to ease the grid lock is opposed by several citizens, including civic activists, urban experts and NGOs.
The Karnataka cabinet on September 28 awarded the Rs 1,761-crore project to L&T Ltd as the lowest bidder ignoring protests against it, which, if allowed, will result in axing about 800 trees and causing ecological damage to the garden city.
The tribunal first stayed the project on October 28 on a joint petition by Balasubramanian, Citizen Action Forum and Namma Bengaluru Foundation and extended the stay twice over the last two months.
"Though it is mandatory for the Ministry of Environment and Forests to evaluate the project for approval, it appears to be a party to the state government's decision to go ahead with the project," said Balasubramanian.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, however, defended the steel flyover and claimed the project was proposed in 2010 and announced in the 2014-15 budget.
Neither the state government nor BDA considered alternative routes, no study was done to confirm if the steel bridge was the best option, no permission was taken to cut so many (over 800) trees and public hearings were not conducted before awarding the costly project to a private firm, added the petition.