Bengaluru’s proposed 6.7km steel flyover at a cost of Rs 260 crore per km is meant to connect some of the busiest traffic points in the city, easing congestion and more specifically, to speed up the journey to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA).
Citizens have organised swiftly in protest, forming human chains and tweeting with hashtags like #SayNoToSteelFlyover or #SteelFlyoverBeda, some dubbing it the ‘VIP flyover’ for being of little use to the common man for whom journeys to the airport aren’t a priority.
Although the government refuses to concede their demand, protesters oppose the flyover for the Rs 1,791 crore it will cost, the two years it is expected to take, and 800-odd trees that the city will lose.
The flyover is meant to come up in the north of the city, but traffic is heaviest with people in the IT city travelling from the north, where development has been slow, to the city’s southeast and the Central Business District, where the businesses are.
The state government initially publicised the steel flyover project as one that would help airport commuters and provide a much-needed boost to real estate in north Bengaluru.
A highly placed source within the ruling Congress says the project is a desperate bid for appreciation before the state hits election mode. “We go into assembly elections by 2018. Which means, technically we are left with only 2017 to do whatever we have aimed to do for the betterment of the city,” he says.
State agriculture minister Krishna Byre Gowda is confident that the steel flyover will benefit the city. Speaking to the media on Saturday, he condemned the protestors and said: “You guys want us to provide you solutions. But when we come up with a plan, you play right into the hands of opposition parties. Your protests are unreasonable. To stall a developmental project over trees is myopic despite the assurances that government will plant and nurture saplings for every tree cut here.”
Proximity to the airport has not turned out to be a selling point for major developers and builders like Manyata, Sobha, Prestige and Brigade, who went the whole hog with their premium properties in north Bengaluru. Industrial growth in the area is at an all-time low and all the investment in real estate has done little so far to improve infrastructure in the area.
Real estate players are clearly excited about the prospects north Bengaluru will see with this flyover. “North Bengaluru has good connectivity. But the impetus provided by the steel flyover will surely whip up some more excitement in north Bengaluru where real estate has a lot of potential. With the proposed flyover, real estate will see a good surge in the coming days,” Pradeep Jr Reddy, promoter of Realty Brook Private Limited (a venture of JR Estates), says.
Ankit Tyagi, COO of North India Sotheby’s International Realty, says, “North Bengaluru is undergoing planned expansion along with infrastructure development.The niche segment of home buyers and property curators are definitely eyeing north Bengaluru for their future plans.”
“Infrastructure improvement has always led to a hotter real estate. For example, development of Hong Kong’s international airport led to the development of residential projects and housing as per the master plan developed by the HK government after reclaiming land around the airport,” Tyagi added.
But Vinay K Sreenivasa, a member of Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike who has been taking part in agitations organised by citizens’ groups against the steel flyover, says, building the way out of congestion is not a good idea.
“We all know why this project is being taken up in such a hurry. The government should pay heed to the voices of people and consult experts for better alternatives to ease the situation.”
(Published in arrangement with GRIST Media)