Trees were cut, roads were dug up and traffic diverted for the Agara-Sirsi Ciricle signal-free corridor project. BDA vehemently defended the project while residents in Koramangala questioned the logic and took it to the court. Now a year since the struggle, Koramangala residents feel vindicated. The government-appointed committee that looked into the project has recommended that the project be dropped.
In July, High Court had ordered that the government committee should engage with citizens and give its recommendations on the project. HC had given this order in a petition filed by residents and civic associations. The committee was formed by ex-Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda by a Government Order. The members of this committee are top IAS officers Kaushik Mukherjee and Amita Prasad, ACP (Traffic) M A Saleem, and T G Seetharam who heads CiSTUP, IISc.
This committee had its first meeting in August, during which it set up a sub-committee that comprised both citizens and government officers. The sub-committee deliberated on alternatives to the project, and submitted a report to the government committee. Based on this report, the government committee has made its final recommendations now.
Now that the committee has given its report, government has to make its final decision by October 5th, the deadline given by HC. If approved, the project will be dropped. If not, petitioners can take the case to court again. Committee member Amita Prasad says that the report will be forwarded to the Chief Minister today, and that it is likely to be accepted.
Vijayan Menon, sub-committee member and one of the petitioners in the HC case, says that there are two things to look out for though. "One is that there are some financial implications since government had already given the tenders and work had started on the project. Second, that residents in Hosur Road may have concerns like land acquisition." Menon, 57, is a marketing consultant, and member of civic associations like Citizens Action Forum and Koramangala Initiative.
Menon, however, says that the recommendation on shifting the project to Hosur Road was made after consulting experts. "From our calculations, only some land of KSRP (Karnataka State Reserve Police) in Madivala will have to be acquired. There are some churches and mosques along the stretch though; so we will have to see," says Menon.
All recommendations of the sub-committee did not make it into the final report though – such as improvements to Inner Ring Road, and construction of a proposed road from Ejipura to Sarjapur Road. While these suggestions were unanimous, the sub-committee was divided on whether the signal-free corridor project itself should go through Sarjapura Road.
Nitin Seshadri, another sub-committee member, says, "Only BDA and one citizen in the sub-committee had supported the project. This division in opinion was mentioned in our report to the committee," he says. Seshadri, 45, is an entrepreneur and Secretary of Koramangala 3rd block RWA.
Menon says that the report is important because it recognises citizen participation. "The report even acknowledges that the issue escalated because citizens were not involved. The recommendations also show that, even if a project has started off, citizens can still get it stopped. Often, people think that opposing a project after it is tendered, is useless," he says.
Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar, who had supported citizens in their protests, echoes these views. He says that the report indicates a welcome shift in government’s approach to the city. "Involving citizens in decisions about their neighbourhoods will usher in more transparency in how public money is spent on urban infrastructure projects," he says.
Below is the copy of the committee’s report.
REPORT ON AGARA-SIRSI SIGNAL FREE CORRIDOR ROAD PROJECT
In G.O. No. UDD 228 MNJ 2012, dated 19.7.2012, a Committee was constituted with the following members to go into the entire issue of cutting of trees in Koramangala in the process of building a signal free corridor from Sirsi circle to Agara lake;
Shri Kaushik Mukherjee, Additional Chief Secretary to Government & Development Commissioner – Chairman
Principal Secretary to Government, Urban Development Department – Member
Shri Saleem, Additional Police Commissioner (Traffic), Bangalore – Member
CiStup IISc, Bangalore – Traffic Expert
This was the consequence of a huge public outcry when the trees were cut in Sarjapura road in Koramangala and subsequently some members of the public approached the Honourable High Court of Karnataka. The Committee itself set the following terms and conditions:-
a) To find out whether it was possible to ease traffic congestion
without sacrificing any tree;
b) Whether the previous proposals were scientifically worked out;
c) To suggest alternative means of easing traffic congestion.
It was noticed by this Committee that the previous proposals emanated from very little or without any public consultation. Hence, it was considered necessary to consult as many stakeholders as possible. A public meeting was held on 13.08.2012 in Committee Room No 318, Vikasa Soudha, Bangalore, wherein the members of the public were heard at length and they were allowed to pour out their grievances. Most of them were extremely vocal against the proposal of cutting trees and building an underpass along Sarjapura main road and Koramangala.
To continue the public consultation, a Sub Committee was set up with the following members:-
ci) Shri Chikkarayappa, Engineer Member, Bangalore Development Authority – Chairman
cii) Shri C. Somashekhar, Chief Engineer, BBMP – Member
ciii) Shri C. Raghavan, Engineer Officer-3, Bangalore Development Authority – Member
civ) Shri T.G.Seetharam, CiStup, Indian Institute of Science – Member
cv) Shri Srinivasa Murthy, Asst Commissiner of Police(Traffic), Bangalore South East Sub Division – Member
cvi) Shri Nithin Sheshadri – Member
cvii) Shri Narayana Reddy – Member
cvii) Shri Jayaram – Member
cix) Shri Sudhakar – Member
cx) Hasiru Usiru, Bangalore – Member
cxii) Reverend Dr. Lawrence, St. John’s Hospital, Bangalore – Member
This Sub-committee would meet and bring up alternative proposals. The Sub-Committee met at least on two occasions and they have produced certain papers.
Though there was lack of unanimous outcomes, the following conclusions emerged from the public deliberations:-
a) There is nothing in real life which can be called Signal Free Corridor and any process of
development would actually minimise signals if the junctions were treated properly;
b) It is better to concentrate on those arterials which are designed and designated to carry main traffic rather than direct heavy traffic through residential colonies;
c) It would be appropriate to dovetail various schemes already in the pipeline with various civic agencies and make use them rather than a single agency attempting to implement major proposals.
It was felt by most stakeholders that the Hosur road itself being the continuation of a national highway should be designed to carry maximum traffic. This will be without detriment to any residential colony or any tree growth in such places. There is no tree growth of note on any stretch of the Hosur road being considered at present.
The entire process of development is delineated in the sketch attached. The sketch shows (not to scale) depiction of the various junctions which are sought to be treated. The Committee has also attempted to depict such changes considered which are necessary for developing a junction.
The Committee recommends that the following junctions need to be treated in the manners specified:-
1) It is believed that at the junction of the Forum Mall, (shown as J1 on schematic) the BBMP has a scheme for construction of an integrated flyover or underpass which will ease the traffic. This should be done as soon as possible.
2) There has been an underpass constructed on the Hosur road near Iyyappa temple which is substandard in quality (J3 on schematic). The Indian Road Congress mandates that an underpass should be able to carry vehicles of 5.5 mtrs height, in view of the fact that this is a national highway. The present underpass is only 4.5 mtrs height. The Committee feels that this underpass should be modified to accommodate vehicles of the requisite height of 5.5 mtrs and that too without compromising on the drainage in the underpass. In case this is not possible, the same underpass has to be abandoned and the Silk Board flyover would need to be extended from the Silk board (J5) up to the beginning of Forum Mall, Junction (J1); if elevated, an elevated an exit ramp to Madivala market needs to be provide. This will take away most of the traffic from Koramangala in to Hosur road straight. In case this is not resorted to, the existing slip road has to be widened at the underpass with adequate land acquisition.
3) For smooth entry of vehicles into Sarjapura road from the Hosur road by the side of the Silk Board flyover adequate land should be acquired from the KSRP to widen the existing road. To improve the carriage capacity of the Sarjapura (outer ring) road all the side roads need to be developed simultaneously from the Silk Board junction (J5) to the Agara lake.
Under the above circumstances, the work already taken up in Koramangala – Sarjapura road need to be abandoned without any further cutting of trees and construction site needs to be restored to its original condition as soon as possible. The Committee is of the opinion that it will be undesirable to carry traffic from external sources into a residential colony like Koramangala when a regular Hosur road as well as Sarjapura ring road which have been designed to take heavy traffic are available.
These roads need to be improved adequately and all bottlenecks should be removed. Very major bottleneck is parking of interstate buses at Hosur road in Madivala. This practice should be stopped forthwith and some place outside the City near Hosur can be found for this purpose. However, bus stop for interstate buses can be given at / near outer ring road / KSRP Land (by acquiring land) in addition to outside the city for the benefit of passengers.
The government should complete all these works positively by Aug 2013.
(Kaushik Mukherjee) (Dr Amita Prasad) (Shri M A Saleem)
Chairman Member Member
CiSTUP, IISc, Bangalore
For Prof. Sitharam, Chairman, CiSTUP, IISc