CHENNAI: The Bengaluru steel flyover proposed by the Karnataka government, after having run into protests from the garden city’s environmentally-conscious residents, is soon set to have its fate decided by the National Green Tribunal. The southern bench of the NGT will hear the final arguments in for and against the Rs 1,800 crore project on January 30.
Which way will the ruling go? As far as the Karnataka State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) is concerned, it has adopted a stand identical to that of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), which stated that there was no need for environmental clearance for the project. The decision was arrived at on the technicality that the proposed road doesn’t come under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) and project contractor L&T Ltd didn’t file separate replies, and merely adopted the reply of the SEIAA.
This SEIAA stand goes against the petitioners’ argument that the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) had planned to proceed with the project without holding mandatory public hearings or obtaining necessary environmental clearances.
V Balasubramanian, a former Additional Chief Secretary of Karnataka and Citizens Action Forum President N S Mukunda had jointly filed the writ petition before the tribunal against the BDA
from executing the Rs.1,761 crore steel bridge as it would result in cutting about 800 trees and causing environmental damage to the garden city.
On Wednesday, Advocate General of Karnataka government Madhusudhan R Naik appeared and pleaded with the tribunal to ask the petitioner’s counsel to initiate the arguments. He expressed disappointment that the delay was causing severe financial implications and the project was envisaged for public convenience.
The same sentiments were echoed by senior counsel in Supreme Court Sanjay Upadhyay, who was representing BDA and another government counsel on record Devraj Ashok.
However, the petitioner’s counsel T Mohan refused to argue saying the rejoinders from other parties were given only on Wednesday, which made sure the stay order of the tribunal holds good till January 30.
The bench, comprising MS Nambiar and Expert Member PS Rao, has posted the case for final arguments on January 30. The bench also asked the parties to share the written arguments prior to the hearing.
The proposed 6.7 km six-lane steel bridge from Chalukya circle to Hebbal circle would connect the airport road in the city’s northern suburb and the busy National Highway number 7 that heads towards Hyderabad and, according to the government, would ease the heavy traffic congestion in the area. The state cabinet on September 28 last awarded the project to L&T Ltd, which was the lowest bidder for the tender.