PRR: Massive environmental damage for another futile Ring Road?

environmental impacts of peripheral ring road

The long-pending Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) has turned controversial for its environmental impacts and lack of transparency. The project would lose Bengaluru over 33,000 trees, including in the Thippagondanahalli Reservoir catchment and in reserve forest areas.

On Wednesday, September 23, the Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore Urban District will hold a public consultation (webinar) on the project’s environmental impacts. BDA (Bangalore Development Authority) is implementing the project, and its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report is available online.

Here are details of the public hearing and how you can attend it.

Do the environmental impacts of the PRR justify the project? Will PRR help reduce traffic congestion in the city’s inner roads, as envisioned?

Ring Roads have not helped reduce traffic in Bengaluru

Since the 1960s, ring roads or circular highways built around the city centre have been a common feature in large metropolitan areas. These roads allow vehicles to travel from one end of the city to the other without having to pass through the busy centre.

In Namma Bengaluru, the only complete ring road is the Outer Ring Road (ORR), constructed between 1996 and 2002. The 60-km-long road, built at a distance of about 10 kilometres from the city centre, can accommodate two or more lanes of traffic in either direction for much of its length. Multiple flyovers and underpasses have sprung up since its construction to ‘ease’ traffic flow at intersections, eliminating the need for traffic lights. 

However, it is a nightmare for everyday commuters to take the ORR and navigate its infamous traffic jams. Authorities have failed to limit development adjacent to the ORR. Hence it doubles up as an access road for abutting commercial and residential properties. These numerous access points, combined with the short distance between intersecting roads, end up restricting traffic flow where lane discipline is “more honoured in the breach than in observance”.

Traffic pile up on ORR. The purpose of ORR was defeated as it carries traffic originating from adjoining roads and properties. Pic: https://twitter.com/sarvsaravanan

Within the ORR, there is the confusingly named Inner Ring Road, a 10-km-long connecting road between Koramangala and Indiranagar.

An elevated Core Ring Road, at a distance of about 5km from the centre, was proposed in 2007, but later declared unfeasible in the Master Plan published in 2018, only to make a swift return in the form of the infamous ‘Elevated Corridors‘ project comprising several elevated radial roads extending inward from the ORR and terminating in a central loop.

PRR is the new kid on the block 

Outside the ORR, at a distance of about 20 km from the city centre, is the semicircular NICE (Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises) Road connecting Tumkur Road in the north-west to Hosur Road in the south-east. This corridor was conceived in 1997, and the first section was inaugurated in 2006.

The Peripheral Ring Road will connect both ends of the existing NICE road.

Several successive Bengaluru Master Plans have proposed a road connecting the two ends of the semi-circle, to complete an orbital road. This project has been called the Peripheral Ring Road (PRR). 

Proponents of the PRR argue that connecting all the major highways coming into the city would remove intercity traffic from the busy centre. They say that heavy vehicles like lorries, passing through the inner city, could be diverted on to the PRR. Besides, PRR would be an alternative route to the Kempegowda International Airport from suburban areas around the city, which is now much needed. 

Contrary to the aims of the PRR, there are reasons to believe that the road would induce new development and new traffic. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) would have helped citizens understand the network of these roads, but BDA has refused to release the document saying it’s not yet final! However, the EIA report admits that “considerable local traffic” is expected, and provides for service roads parallel to the highway

On balance, there seems to be more justification for the PRR than for projects like the ‘Elevated Corridors’ which involve building radial roads much closer to the city centre. But there are serious concerns about PRR’s effects on the city’s almost-depleted green cover, its water bodies and biodiversity.

Environmental impacts are severe

Bengaluru has been losing its green and blue cover at an alarming rate. For nearly half a decade, the BDA tried to argue that only 200 trees would be felled for the PRR, based on an erroneous EIA. It was forced to submit a fresh EIA after the National Green Tribunal ordered it to. The current EIA reveals that 33,838 trees would have to be removed to build the road.

Of these, 9,304 trees are in the Thippagondanahalli Reservoir catchment area, which is a primary source of water for Bengaluru’s residents. The EIA acknowledges that the removal of these trees and the disposal of waste will “affect the hydrological regime and water quality”.

Construction of the PRR would involve the loss of 10 hectares (25 acres) of forested land in Jarakabandekaval Reserve Forest. Besides, there are six lakes along the proposed road alignment. Hence, its construction is expected to result in significant loss of habitat for small mammals like squirrels and bats, and for birds like the Black kite, Brahminy kite, Common buzzard and the Indian peafowl. About 555 hectares (1,371 acres) of farmland will also be lost to the PRR. 

Loss of six lakes and part of the reserve forest would destroy the habitats of several bird and animal species. Representational image: https://www.facebook.com/SaveAlahalliLake/

The BDA has proposed a ‘catch-all’ solution to the impact of the PRR on the environment. It plans to plant 10 trees for every tree removed – that is, a total of 3,38,380 trees. Of this, 10,020 trees are to be planted on a 5-m-wide proposed green belt on either side of the road alignment. About 83,200 trees are to be planted in the Thippagondanahalli Reservoir catchment area. Details are thin on where the rest of the trees (nearly 2.4 lakh) would be planted, and how land would be acquired for it.  

The EIA proposes building barriers on both sides of the road construction site, to mitigate dust and air pollution. It asserts that no materials will be dropped from a height greater than 3 feet, so as to minimise dust, and that water will be sprinkled on the construction site at least three times a day.

Road construction will not be carried out at night, promises BDA, to reduce noise pollution and the impact on birds and animals. It also plans not to construct labour camps in environmentally-sensitive areas, and to build covered drains on either side of the road to avoid stagnant water accumulation.

Even with all these mitigation measures, BDA estimates that the total CO2 emissions from construction and maintenance of the road would be 5.52 lakh tonnes. This number is the equivalent of burning 24 crore litres of petrol or adding 1.2 lakh additional cars to Bengaluru.

Heavy on the pocket, too

The project cost of PRR was estimated at Rs 3,850 crores in 2016, but the latest estimate is over Rs 15,000 crores for the 65.5-km road. Thus the cost of each kilometre of the road works out to be a hefty Rs 229 crores. The project will be jointly funded by a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the state government.

The BDA issued a preliminary notification for acquiring 1,989 acres of land in 2004-5 for the construction of PRR, which barred farmers from selling the land or building anything including borewells, cowsheds, etc. In the last 15 years, however, not a single km of the road was constructed, and the affected farmers continue to be in limbo. 

A haphazard and lackadaisical approach to planning means there’s no consideration of alternative plans that may have higher transportation efficacy and lower environmental and economic impacts. Instead, individual projects are proposed and withdrawn on a seemingly random basis. A flyover here, an underpass there, and a bit of road widening here and there only costs money and leads to environmental problems without necessarily resolving transportation issues.

While these are long-term problems that require attention, for the moment, the BDA must release the project’s DPR immediately to enable informed participation by residents in hearings and debates.

Also Read:
“Unplanned development failed the ORR. It may fail Peripheral Ring Road too”

Why Bengaluru can’t be Singapore: The crux is land ownership

Citizens win PIL on reckless commercialisation in Bengaluru


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About Vimal Simha 5 Articles
Dr Vimal Simha is an astrophysicist with a keen interest in urban issues and politics.

29 Comments

  1. Don’t agree with the title that the PRR is totally futile. Big issue between people who wants to protect environment and green cover for the city go extreme in that direction while government also doing the same. What is needed is that both groups need to think about balance between development and environment
    PRR will definitely help reduce traffic congestion in the city and thus, absolutely required. However, few things must be considered
    1. Need for 100 meters when NHAI standards is only 60 or 70 meters for 6 lane highway with 2 lane service roads on both sides. Even for 8 lane expwy as proposed, 100mt is too much
    2. When NHAI already in the process of building STRR, need to assess future projections for traffic on PRR and decide if 4 or 6 lanes will be enough. Once the STRR operational, trucks/tankers will not use PRR. Also, when NICE expwy with only 4 lanes forms the other half ring, what is the rational for 8 lanes expwy ? Also, 3 lanes (i.e., 10.5 meters width) for service road on both sides require reassessment (NHAI standard is only 2 lane 7 meters width)
    3. Most of the trees can be translocated to median and both sides of the road instead of chopping off even if it is costly affair i.e., one time cost provide continued green cover and even absorb the pollution generated by the traffic on PRR
    4. Leverage technology for various options available to bypass forest and water conservation bodies, where possible and
    5. I think, this is already addressed in EIA. if not yet, must adopt building green cover adjacent to the road in some ratio i.e., for every sqkm road built, some % of green cover must be provisioned

    • PRR is vital for bangalore survival. Dont agree with this article content at all. Imagine all the current traffic going through bangalore without ORR. It’s absurd to say ORR is no help. Growth is important for a country like India with so many people need jobs. Growth feeds people. I agree that we need to find ways to mitigate environmental impact etc., but can’t oppose growth. We are not a rich country like west. Imagine how life was for most people, before this IT growth but for some rich families. Now we have a massive well to do middle class that can afford basic necessities. Lets work hard to mitigate the risks but please, please do not oppose PRR. Its badly needed to channel the traffic around city and decongest already clogged ORR.

  2. PRR is required urgently to reduce traffic congestion.the trees you are talking about are in private lands and will be cut anyways once development or construction activity happens in outskirts.already the ratio of roads to land is very less in bangalore

  3. Thippagondanahalli is in west Bengaluru in Magadi road, how is PRR coming in the way of its cathment area? Also absence of PRR is the reason for silk board and tin factory choking traffic apart from daily IT commuters. PRR will ease these bottlenecks.

  4. Dr Simha has read a one sided script. Bad bad bad. Even if we agree ORR and proposed PRR are bad, what are the alternatives. Bengaluru grew fast and places which were villages at the start of the century find themselves overcrowded with multistoreyed buildings. Lakes have been killed for building these flats, trees cut down, forests and lands encroached. Bengaluru needs a PRR, but building circular roads every decade isnt the solution either. It needs mass transit like suburban network, a scientifically planned multi transit system and most importantly foresighted and close fisted politicians and beurocrats who can stand up to the developers.

  5. It’s not the right idea for avoiding the traffic congestion, it’s devastating plan. Please stop this stupidity and be “Eco” friendly. Shift IT BT companies to other districts and let live the natives of Bengaluru peacefully and save our mother nature🌿🍃 🙏🙏. Global warming🌎📛 is happening just because of these strange and weird plans. Stop ruining our mother land in the name of development.save nature to save us and our future Generations.

    • Malini,
      Would you shift to these other districts that lack malls, good schools and hospitals? I guess not. Cities act as magnates for growth.

      [Ed: This comment has been edited to suit our comments policy]

  6. Good article. I had thought the PRR did not have much downside. But it is true that there is no attention given to radial roads that connect areas and hence all new development by land sharks(read those who run the govt) will be around the PRR, thus making it tough again for heavy vehicle movement on this road.

  7. Imagine Bangalore without ORR, it is unimaginable. Whenever there is development talk, certain sections of the people always try to block them in the name of eco conservation. These things were said during metro planning also. Today roughly 4 lakh people use the metro facility. People should leave development to the concerned authorities.

    • I agree with you. I certainly dont understand who gives rights to this stupid people objecting every development work in the pretext of environment.

  8. Hopefully PRR and other infra project come soon.. this will be a boost env in a great way .. reducing traffic n pollution

  9. Cars, buses, bikes and trucks in the city is root cause of traffic problem. We must ban all cars, buses, trucks and bikes first. Then there will be no need for new roads either.

  10. These foolish people will seriously not learn lessons from what is already happening..
    We are yet to face the worst in the days to come

  11. In prr catchment area out 33000 trees nearly more than a half trees are nilagilr trees that already affected water bodies in that area ….if government is planting new trees instead of nilagiri it improves water bodies..

  12. Will you people not allow this city to grow? This road is beyond necessary, I find it mighty privelaged of you to speak as such.

  13. In view of STRR project is already in the schedule of NHAI that shall serve the purpose of PRR. The proposed PRR shall be just an extension of advantages, but the damage which will cause to the environment is immense.

    The nightmare of recent rain havoc can’t be forgotten easily by the affected residents near ORR. Thus, rain and flooding drainage will certainly damage the lives and properties of the lakhs of families who are already living on the both sides of the proposed BDA’s PRR. No one could guarantee minimum damages to the environment due to the PRR as felling of more than 33000 trees, surpassing many lakes and drastically reducing or inflating the groundwater table due to dissecting many catchment areas shall be a irreparable loss of environment(fauna and flora).

    I’m a senior citizen born and brought up in BENGALURU seen growth of my beloved city at the cost of environmental impact on the lives of its residents. Please scrap the BDA’S PROPOSED PRR.

  14. Unworkable ideas, which cost a lot, appear to be the Govt’s speciality. cheaper, more practical solutions are a strict no no. Severe environmental damage and more buildings will do more damage. Why cannot other areas of the State be developed for all round development and stop influx of people into Bengaluru?

  15. “Ring Roads have not helped reduce traffic in Bengaluru” What a stupid observation and to fool people you have given a pictures of traffic jam in ORR during white toping project. Please don’t do such junk articles. Yes we need to plant 10 times the trees lost due to this project, but don’t fool people by says this does not reduce traffic. I always use ORR to escape from city traffic.

  16. The idea that the ORR is futile is laughable, coming from an esteemed NGO like yours. ORR has helped in absorbing the huge increase of vehicles in Bangalore. Just imagine the situation, if ORR was absent and Bangalore had continued with the same vehicular growth. The idea that PRR will only benefit private vehicles is also flawed. A large number of intra city and inter city trucks will use it instead of using internal city roads.This is the case with similar projects in cities like Hyderabad and Delhi where ORR and PRR have actually helped in reducing pollution from trucks. A metro rail cannot be a solution to all of a cities problems,since heavy and commercial vehicles still need roads. Lastly, there has been tremendous residential growth in the outer areas of Bangalore where PRR is coming up. The PRR will help these far flung areas and reduce the pressure on ORR.Not having a PRR is not a solution since the population will continue to grow, no matter what and existing infrastructure is inadequate to support this growth.Does it mean that we will end up losing trees? Unfortunately that’s the price we all pay for growth. It however is important that the BDA does implement this project in a manner that will minimize environmental impact.

  17. Dr Simha’s in depth and objective analysis, based on facts, is so revealing of the PRR’s pitfalls and environmental impact. I would like to just add the following to the arguments:

    Currently, there are no guidelines and methods, used by the SEIAA (State Environmenal Impact Assessment Authority) to quantify ecological and hydrological impacts – based on which to make an informed assessment. The EIA for the PRR notes several of these impacts, reasonably well, but without any quantification. Can we today, accept such an unscientific approach?

    It is high time that the already approved Unified Metropolitan Transportation and Mobility Authority is constituted and empowered. We can no longer pursue projects on individual basis.

  18. Guys, be a pro Bangalorian encourage PRR for better life here, instead of talking big big things about environment. That Nature will take care of it, so keep quiet!

  19. Peripheral Ring Road will definitely be helpful to ease traffic. This article does not give any solid reason as to why it won’t, rather stresses on rhetoric. Hyderabad, Delhi and every landlocked big city has a peripheral ring road which helps a lot. With a city like Bengaluru with its huge population, peripheral ring road is the only way. Regarding trees loss, 5x trees can be planted elsewhere near the city.

  20. I ArogyaSwamy oppose this project as it doesn’t do any good to Bengaluru. More wider roads will attract more traffic and so the population. Along with these, we natives have to bear less greenery, pollution in all levels, water scarcity and in the end die with unknown diseases. This project should be stopped.

  21. Hi,
    Informative read,
    How about the notification given in 2006 to acquire land for PRR phase 2,?
    They have not mentioned about it, change in alignment and linking it to existing NICE corridor makes phase 2 not feasible.
    They have not yet denotified that or passed on any information,
    Kindly let us know of any information / notification in this regard

  22. bda is a real estate agent, they are making prr so that large green lungs area is quickly concretized , instead bda must make cycle and walk way real wakable and care more about water, roads, metro etc

    • Actually that doesnot help.. indian cities are populous cities.. wider toads are the only options .. metro is another alternative but is very expensive to build metro corridors
      Look at hyderabad .. they have less traffic and pollution because of wider infra

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