NGT stays Bengaluru’s steel flyover for 4 weeks

National Green Tribunal stays implementation of steel flyover project for four weeks. This is how BDA’s arguments were demolished …

BDA had claimed
Environmental Impact Assessment not required as project is in city limits

NGT learnt
Each project over 1.5 lakh sq m requires an EIA study

BDA had claimed
Steel flyover is only 6.68 km long; thus EIA is not required

NGT learnt
‘Signature Bridge’ on Yamuna was only 675 m; NGT bench demanded EIA for that too

BDA had claimed
60,000 saplings will be planted to compensate for 800 trees to be cut

NGT learnt
Even planting 10 times that number cannot compensate for the loss of 800+ trees that will be axed

Finally, a spoke in the steel
The first battle in the war against the controversial proposed steel flyover from Basaveshwara Circle to Hebbal Flyover has been won by the common man. The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Chennai, has granted a four-week stay on the project; and more importantly, it has asked the authorities in Karnataka to file a “detailed environmental impact assessment” report.

The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) had so far maintained that the project was exempted from the environmental impact assessment.

It had claimed that the Union ministry of environment and forests, through its August 22, 2013 amendment to the 2006 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), granted it an exemption. The amendment exempted project within the city municipal limits.

The application before the NGT, however, noted that the BDA’s claim of exemption from EIA was wrong as under 8 (b) of the EIA notification, any project greater than 1,50,000 sq metres, should have an EIA.

The project was to be officially launched on November 1 despite widespread protests and public sentiment against the steel flyover.

The BDA itself claimed that over 800 trees would have to be “moved” or chopped for the 6.7-Km-long flyover.

Citizen Action Forum and retired additional chief secretary V Balasubramanian, who is also the head of the Karnataka branch of Transparency International, had approached the NGT against the Union government, state government, department of forest, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Karnataka State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, the BDA, and Larsen & Toubro Limited, the last being the company selected to build the steel flyover.

One of the main concerns of the application before the NGT was the BDA’s move to go ahead with the project “without conducting any mandatory environmental impact assessment studies, to assess the footprint and impact of the proposed activity in consonance with the precautionary principle.”

The application said the arbitrary action by the authorities “poses a serious threat to the environment and ecology of Bengaluru“. It also alleged that L&T was issued the tenders for the project without first obtaining mandatory clearances and sanctions as per the law.

The project involves axing of over 800 trees, but there is no report of the Tree Authority, which is mandatory under the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act. The NGT was also told that “planting of a sapling or even 10 times the number of saplings does not compensate the environmental services provided by a tree.” In a span of 50 years, a tree provides services worth Rs 3,55,13,000 (Rs 3.55 crore) to mankind, the NGT was told.

Apart from direction to the authorities to seek environmental clearance, the prayers before the NGT include directions to hold public hearings in the project-affected areas and following the procedures mandated by law, and not fell trees without exploring all other alternatives.

Reactions
DVS torn between beda and beku
Union Cabinet Minister DV Sadananda Gowda, who got stuck in a massive traffic jam while reaching the city from KIA on Friday, says the government should look at alternatives for decongesting the Hebbal flyover stretch.

Our volunteers have been anxious ever since the human chain, given the govt’s stubbornness… The interim order is like a small reward for all the hard work. No time to rejoice just yet — Archana Ramesh, Judicial Layout, Yelahanka RWA

Very welcome order. The government should listen to the voice of the citizens. Hoping to see the idea coming to an end –Ajay Alur Sadashivnagar RWA

The NGT order restores faith in democracy. It also reinforces the faith in the common man to fight for what is wrong and to believe that the law will help us in our fight for justice. This order gives precedence to several other fights– Srinivas Alavilli, convener of Citizens of Bengaluru

We are deeply happy about the NGT order. It is Bengaluru’s victory and NGT has been a hero of it. In the last three weeks that the citizens have been fighting against the flyover, this is the only respite. It feels nice when our fight gets an external validation. This is just first of many. – Priya Chetty Rajagopal

Credits Bangalore Mirror

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