Comment: Bengaluru's flyover not a walkover, but the finest steel has to go through the hottest fire
Traffic patterns in Bengaluru have changed substantially in recent years, with businesses increasingly shifting to areas near the international airport in Devanahalli. As a result, the stretch of road between Basaveshwara Circle and Hebbal has become one of the busiest roads in the city today, with over two lakh vehicles passing through it daily. It is this problem that lakhs of commuters are facing everyday that the government is trying to solve by putting up a 6.7 km-long steel flyover on this stretch, against which there's an ongoing, well-organised but motivated campaign.
True, the steel flyover will cost upwards of Rs. 1,500 crore, but if you add up the cost of fuel and productivity losses that lakhs of people and businesses are currently suffering daily due to the absence of such a structure, you will see that the proposed flyover is well worth it!
True, also, that some 816 trees will be cut down to make way for the flyover, but to make up for that loss of greenery, some 60,000 ornamental plants are proposed to be planted. What's more, environmentalists would also do well to urge Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to plant trees on the thousands of acres of land recovered from squatters by his firm initiative.
More importantly, a steel structure will cause the barest minimum of inconvenience to commuters while it is being put in place because, unlike while building a concrete flyover, the steel structure is pre-fabricated in a casting yard and is brought to the site to be put in place. Moreover, the load of a steel structure on the ground below will be approximately only one-eighth the load of a concrete one of the same size.
If these arguments are not enough to convince the naysayers, let's ask, who started down this steel bridge road in the first place? It was the previous BJP regime, which appointed M/s STUP Consultants Pvt Ltd, issuing two work orders in 2010 and 2012, respectively. The consultant interacted with all stake-holders and came to the conclusion that the Basaveshwara Circle to Hebbal stretch is the shortest and most effective alignment. Now, though, it is the same BJP, through one of its associate members, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekar, that is stalling the project that they originally conceived of!
But leave the politics of it aside for a moment, let's ask what the people want. In its outreach exercise, the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) invited suggestions from experts and the public on this project. Of the 299 responses it received, 219 were in favour of the steel bridge, while 80 people were opposed to it. Should 80 people be allowed to stop a project that will benefit 80 lakh people? Or, do the naysayers believe, as Richard Nixon once said, "the finest steel has to go through the hottest fire."
To be sure, a magnificent steel structure will elevate the aesthetics of the city, just as Brooklyn Bridge does it in New York's Manhattan or the Harbour Bridge does in Sydney. But perhaps, there's a powerful lobby for which this will become an eyesore.
The cement lobby is furious, because not an ounce of cement will be used to build this steel flyover. Moreover, a set of local contractors are angry because the government has called a global tender to execute this project rather than handing the project to them. Mixed up concretely in all this is our ultra-rich Rajya Sabha MP who feels the need to prove his utility to his BJP backers as his current term nears its end.
It's a powerful group alright -- of cement manufacturers, local contractors and a Rajya Sabha MP -- that is spending an enormous amount of money to thwart the project. But the people of Bengaluru are sick and tired of the time and money wasted on the city's roads, and will not fall into the well-laid trap of these lobbyists.
(Brijesh Kalappa is legal adviser to Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah)