The Karnataka government is planning to construct Elevated Corridors of around 100 km in Bengaluru. This project will cost Rs 25,000 crore and more than 3,000 trees, and will damage two lakes and rajakaluves and is in the buffer zone of 10 lakes. It will also use up thousands of tonnes of sand, cement and steel. The government claims that this will address traffic congestion in the city. There is opposition from citizens and experts alike for this proposed project and support from a few quarters, especially the corporate honchos.
The principal opposition for this project is on two grounds one, that in the long run, this will not in any way contribute to the reduction of congestion, and two this will actually cause irreparable damage. Of late, there is another important question doing the rounds why spend so much on elevated corridors, when the government is not keen to invest on buses and not keen to invest on health, education or housing? Are these problems not as important as congestion, people ask.
Earlier examples of building our way out of congestion show that they don’t work. Look at the Electronic City Flyover during peak hours. It’s jammed up. Look at the signal-free corridors from Hebbal to Chalukya Circle. It’s jammed up. World over, it’s proven that the more you widen roads, or add to road capacity blindly, it will attract more vehicles, leading to more congestion. The question is why aren’t our leaders learning from this?
Secondly, BMTC today has 58 lakh trips with just 6,500 buses. For the longest time, we have been asking the government to double the fleet and halve the fares. If they halve the fares, the two-wheeler riders will get attracted. When you double the fleet, frequency increases, crowding in buses reduces and this will attract those using cabs, autos and cars as well. So why isn’t the government doing this? What is instead happening is that BMTC is actually cutting routes, cutting schedules and planning to hike fares. All this will drive people away from buses and towards private transport. The reason BMTC is taking these measures is that it has little state support. If a portion of the Rs 25,000 crore for the elevated corridors is spent on BMTC, we will have an immediate reduction in congestion, at a far lower cost, with no trees lost, no lakes destroyed and no extra cement, granite, steel etc being used!
Today, the government is planning to spend Rs 32,000 crore on Metro Phase 2, Rs 33,600 crore on elevated corridors and around Rs 25,000 crore for Peripheral Ring Road and Satellite Town Ring Road. But not even Rs 1,000 crore on BMTC. Putting the bus at the centre of our mobility plan and giving it priority in funding and road space is a far simpler solution.
Why then is the government pushing an environmentally destructive and expensive project which also violates several laws?
All these must be debated publicly. The chief minister and BBMP must conduct a public dialogue on this issue before a decision is taken.
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