Whose Metro is it anyway?
The metro work is in full swing but it seems to have antagonized the Bangaloreans no end. Only one-fourth of Phase 1 completed and it already has the city in shreds.
The work progress of the project in aid of city commuters has much apprehension among all and sundry and much of it stems from the lack of transparency in the multi-crore project. Whether the city was geared up for such a large scale project in a city as small as Bangalore is still questionable and visibly so.
Several protests later and with the aid of Right to Information here are certain appalling statistics that brings about much concern.
Only one-fourth of Phase 1 is up and the cost has spiraled incessantly.
The initial project cost of this phase was 5800 crores and present logistics have gone up as much as 11,500 crores.
Hundreds of shops and houses have been demolished, several injured, a few killed even, but at what cost? 70% of the cost is covered by tax payers, don’t they deserve an explanation of the entire drama?
Number of trees felled has been filed as merely 412, however the actual number is an unnerving 1200.
In response to earlier RTIs, BMRCL had mentioned no damage to Cubbon Park, but now they are set to acquire 2126 square metres of Cubbon Park permanently for a Metro station near Vidhan Soudha. The Cubbon Park massacre could well be saved by avoiding a station there when there is already a proposed station just 600 metres away.
What about the environmental, social and economical impacts of the Metro project? Is it justified when half of Karnataka is reeling under the after-effects of floods? Is it justified that we spend tens of thousands of crores on a Metro Rail for a single city, especially when there may be better and cheaper solutions? After incurring the steep social, economic and environmental costs the Metro Phase 1 will carry a projected maximum of 10 lakh people when complete (2014), when the population of Bangalore will be 80 lakh. Do we need to incur such huge costs to carry just 12% of Bangalore's population? BMTC today carries 45% of the city's population, can we not look at cheaper, bus-based alternatives or at the very minimum, a rail-based solution that is better designed to suit the needs of the city that is in line with the city’s character? The Majestic bus station is under the knife now. As per reports, the Majestic station is to be shut for three long years now owing to the Metro escapade. Commuters would have to pay a heavy price because the alternatives to the KSRTC bus station which handles 2700 buses is not prepared for the gargantuan shift.
The demands laid down by a few concerned people in public interest are as follows. Firstly, an immediate re-assessment of its social, economic and environment costs, done democratically and transparently. Work to be stopped till this is done. Secondly, studying and analyzing alternatives like BRT and other measures and arrive at a comprehensive solution to the city’s traffic woes. Finally, the review, re-assessment and decisions on alternatives should involve statutory public consultations across the city. Several doors have been knocked time and again, but in vain. Is there anybody listening? Mr Yellappa Reddy has resigned from BMRCL environment committee stating that the committee has not met for the last 2 years. If Metro does not listen to its own environment committee, who does it listen to? After the huge costs, if the Metro project does not work, who does one hold accountable? No one has been held accountable for the deaths or accidents at the Bangalore Metro Site.
Why are alternatives not being taken into consideration before leaping towards a 45000 crore and more upsurge? Is it even feasible? BRT (Bus Rapid Transit system) could have been a convenient approach also keeping in mind saving the grace this charming city once possessed. In this system, buses will have dedicated lanes on each road, which will ensure they move at a good speed, making bus-travel faster. This system is implemented in Delhi and Ahmedabad. It’s cost will be less than 15% of the Metro’s cost and construction time less than half of that of the Metro. Couldn’t we have explored this for Bangalore? Not only that using the existing rail-network within and outside the city could have been solution to much menace. Use existing tracks and sub-urban trains to connect Kengeri, Jnanabharathi, Nayandahalli, Bangalore City Junction, Malleshwaram, Yeshwantpur Junction, Yelahanka Junction, Banaswadi, Krishnarajapuram, Bayappanahalli, Bangalore East and Bangalore Cantonment etc. Bangalore Metro will be completed by 2012 but it does not connect some of these areas, unlike the sub-urban trains which can be introduced immediately as the tracks exist already.
The Metro Phase 1, with a 41km network will be ready only 4 years from now and costs tax payers 15000 crores (projected). Phase 2 is expected to be 125 km, with likely cost greater than 45,000 crores. If Metro has to be extended to the whole city there will be continuous construction for the next 100 years, impacting nearly 3 generations!
The more we see, the more it scares us, the more it worries us. What will the city be left with, when the Metro is complete? What will we be left with when the governments and the politicians and innumerable authorities (BDA, BMRCL, BBMP, BMLTA – anyone missing?) are all done with 'planning' and 'developing' Bangalore? We seem to be restructuring the city to fit with the infrastructure rather than designing infrastructure that fits with the city.
(All data presented here has been gathered through RTI applications, news reports and press releases from BMRCL by a concerned lot and has been issued in public interest.)