Petition to High Court Appointed Committee to review Bangalore Mega Road Widening Project

 

An Appeal for support by Environmental support Group

 

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Campaign Appeal from ESG to Endorse Petition to High Court Appointed Committee to review Bangalore Mega Road Widening Project http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nammaraste

Dear All,

We write to draw your attention to a matter of critical concern to all-- Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike's (BBMP), the municipality of the city of Bangalore, proposes to widen 91 prime roads of the city. This is purportedly to reduce congestion and ease traffic flows and thus make living in the city easier for all. It is claimed by the authorities (continuing in its un-elected state for about two years now) that road widening will increase average traffic flows from the current 8 kms./hour to 40 kms/hour. Every kilometer of road widening is likely to cost a minimum of Rs. 10 crores (excluding land acquisition costs; Rs. 100 million) thus making the overall exercise a super mega project.

A quick analysis of the project would suggest that road widening programmes will not meet the objectives of reducing traffic congestion in the city, as it is oriented towards advancing private modes of travel. Besides, the project does not take into account needs of different road users and compromises on the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, hawkers, differently abled, senior citizens, children and so on. We also find that the road widening scheme is an irrational exercise that is proposed without any conformity with law and goes against the basic principles of urban planning and design. It is fundamentally opposed to progressive features of the National Urban Transport Policy and the innumerable circulars and notices issued Union Ministry of Urban Development. Most critically the project would destroy hundreds of businesses and homes, causing a serious impact on livelihoods. Additionally, it would decimate the green cover of the city constituted largely by the charming avenue trees of Bangalore a heritage of the city. These concerns have been championed for over four years by Environment Support Group in collaboration with a city based network Hasiru Usiru, focussed on protecting lives, livelihoods and urban public and open spaces and greenery. A series of engagments with various State agencies and Public Consultations have marked this process, often providing the implementing agencies with a range of low cost, progressive and long lasting solutions. Unfortunately, none of these have been considered with the interest and seriousness they deserve. The city authorities regardless went ahead in implementing the project in blatant violatio of the law. Constrained, therefore to mount a legal challenge, Environment Support Group with the suport of CIVIC Bangalore filed a PIL (WP No. 7107/2008) in the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka challenging the legality of the road widening and other transport development projects in Bangalore. Considering our appeal favourably, the Court issued an interim direction constituting an Empowered Committee to review all aspects of the road widening and related urban transport projects and to ensure that implementing agencies comply with law. Further, the Committee was strongly advised to involve the wide public in all its decisions and ensure such projects were sustainable and keeping with progressive urban planning and design standards in project development and implementation. The PIL was proposed as a framework in conceiving a process for resolving the various issues involved. We perceived this process as a progressive and productive step towards resolving the conflicts induced by the road widening and related infrastructure projects. In the months following the 28 June 2008 Court order, we have consistently engaged with the Court appointed Committee on a variety of issues, filed a series of representations, encouraged project affected communities to present their concerns, highlighted the possibilities of progressive solutions that could redeem the congestion without resorting to widening roads. Unfortunately, the Committee Chair has decided not to allow any public involvement in its proceedings, exclusively advantaging State agencies to make submissions. Such intransparent procedures have been repeately protested by various Committee members, who have pressed for this quasi judicial forum to be held in conformity with the directions of the High Court. It is critical that alternative dispute mechanisms, such as the High Court appointed Commitee, fulfill their due obligations to society. Success of such fora will go a long way in ensuring a process of conflict resolution on contentious issues, that does not have to resort to litigation. Most importantly, such forums have enormous possibilities in ensuring deep public involvement in shaping a city that values social justice for all and opts for ecologically sensible solutions which are also economically viable. Attached below is the link to an online petition/representation to the Chairperson and Members of the Committee urging them to involve public in planning and decision making processes. The petition also urges the critical importance of prioritising safety of cyclists, pedestrians, senior citizens, children, differently abled, street vendors and other vulnerable communites in public projects. It is argued that with intelligent road design it is possible to safeguard lives, livelihoods, homes, heritage and green cover of the city which is largely provided by avenue trees. Be a part of the campaign by signing the petition at:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nammaraste

 Alternatively, you may send in your endorsements to the address below or email: divyarrs@esgindia.org.

We request you to endorse this petition preferably by Tuesday, 21 October 2008. Please do provide your full name, affiliations and contact details when you endorse.  More details on the issue, including a copy of the High Court judgment, is accessible online at: www.esgindia.org. Thank you for your cooperation and support. Best regards Divya Ravindranath Environment Support Group 105, East End B Main Road Jayanagar 9th Block East Bangalore 560069 Tel: 91-80-22441977/26531339 Voice/Fax: 91-80-26534364 Email: esg@esgindia.or/esgindia@gmail.com Web: www.esgindia.org

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