Bengaluru steel flyover: NGT stays work for 4 weeks, demands environmental impact assessment

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BENGALURU: The National Green Tribunal on Friday granted a four-week stay order against the steel flyover between Chalukya Circle and Hebbal, and asked the government to get a detailed environmental impact assessment done for the project.

Now, the government must call for a public consultation on the project.

Issuing a notice to Bangalore Development Authority, the project implementing agency, and L&T, the lead contractor, the tribunal’s southern bench in Chennai restrained them from going ahead with work, and said EIA had to be ratified by the state environment authority.

The NGT was hearing a petition filed by N Mukund, Citizens’ Action Forum, and V Balasubramanian, a former additional chief secretary. The next hearing is on Nov 25. The BDA’s contention is an EIA is not necessary for the project, citing a rule that exempts NHAI and state highway authorities from filing an EIA if a project is less than 30km in length.

According to the DPR, the steel bridge will be 6.7 km long with 10 entry/exit ramps. Later, the government approved an extension of the bridge beyond Hebbal flyover, to link the KIA expressway.

Despite stiff opposition to the project, the BDA had awarded the tender for implementing it, and decks had been cleared to issue a work order.

“Certainly, the work order cannot be issued until the NGT’s interim stay order is in place. But now, the state government will have to first call for a public hearing on the steel bridge’s social and environmental impact. It will take at least a month’s time, depending on when the government starts the process,”said a source privy to the government’s working and in the know of the case.

Welcoming the NGT order, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar said, “The interim stay and this petition open the door to a detailed scrutiny of the environmental impact of the government’s action. It also puts the brakes on the brazen rush of this government to award and start the contract, despite widespread opposition. Yet again, it is the judiciary that steps in to protect the interests of the city and citizens from an insensitive and apathetic government, that seems to be more driven by vested interests than those of its own people.”

The project was estimated to cost Rs 1,350 crore till June 2016, but the amount was escalated to Rs 1,791 crore by September, when the cabinet approved it.

The government argues the VAT on pre-cast steel segments was increased from 5% to 15.5%.

V Ravichandar, civic expert and member of the Bengaluru Vision Group, said, “They will have to file details for environmental clearance before the state environmental authority (Bengaluru North Greening Committee). The NGT will ask questions for which replies will have to be given by the state. All this will take time, certainly more than four weeks.”